DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I am in the grocery store or a parking lot or some other public place, I often find myself turning around from whatever it is I am doing to find some poor soul standing there, watching me and silently waiting for me to move out of their way.
I am in their way, but I don't know it because I can't see them, and the length of time I have been in their way could have been seconds or minutes, I don't know. I then proceed with an "I'm sorry!" or "Oh! Excuse me!" flushed with embarrassment.
I think it would be good manners for the impeded party to be the first one to politely say "Excuse me," alerting me to their presence so I can let them by. My husband disagrees, saying most people are patient enough. What is the proper way for both parties to proceed?
GENTLE READER: That these people are waiting patiently, rather than using their grocery carts as battering rams to run you down, strikes Miss Manners as quite polite enough.
Yes, they could have asked to be excused. But perhaps they saw you were examining items on a grocery shelf or loading your groceries into your car and kindly decided not to interrupt you in mid-task.
You are right to apologize and to let them through if you are going to take more time. But please save your flushes and embarrassment for greater faults.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it wrong to point out someone's stretch marks and to tell them to use cocoa butter on them in the room with two other people?
GENTLE READER: No doubt there are those who would congratulate themselves on being helpful if they drew attention to what they perceive as a defect in someone and proposed an antidote that is hardly unknown.
If you were the victim of this, Miss Manners commiserates; if you were the perpetrator, please cut it out.
By the way, where did this scene take place that bare tummies were on display? On the beach? In the ladies' locker room?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were invited to a birthday. We were sent a save-the-date card three months in advance. We responded to our RSVP as attending.
We did not attend. My childhood friend's daughter had a graduation the same day, which she, the daughter, personally asked me in person and stated that we must attend, as she and my daughter of the same age are also childhood friends.
Well, the person who invited us bashed us at her party and stated that if we weren't going to go, she could have let the other friends bring their boyfriends after all, whom she didn't even know.
Do I send a gift and letter of apology, which I planned on until I heard her ill-mannered comment in front of numerous people?
GENTLE READER: You are not in a position to complain of other people's bad manners. Explaining why the party is not complete is nothing compared to standing up one's hostess after having accepted an invitation. Miss Manners considers that you owe an abject apology, and you might want to sweeten it with a present.