DEAR MISS MANNERS: What do you do when you take a bite of something, say meat, and it's all bones or fat and you need to get it out of your mouth?
Discreetly put your napkin to your mouth and hide it in there? Maybe this sounds ridiculous, but I've been in that situation and I always hope I'm being inconspicuous!
GENTLE READER-- No, sorry: We all noticed the white flag you raised.
In addition to being ineffective, the napkin disguise is condemned by etiquette as a "genteelism" -- a ploy that draws unwarranted attention to its own fastidiousness. Miss Manners assures you that etiquette knows how to be straightforward when necessary.
The simple rule is that inedible food comes out the way it went in. Meat would have arrived by fork, and therefore it is deposited back on the fork for the return trip. But if you are eating something by hand, for example a grape that turns out to have a seed, you deposit the seed back into your cupped hand. Noiselessly. Etiquette is legitimately fastidious about that.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were acquaintances with our neighbors before we moved -- we would have dinner a couple times a year and would see them on the street regularly. They attended our wedding.
They are our parents' age, and our original motivation to get together was just to be neighborly. They have an interesting relationship -- filled with angst and anger that was expressed openly in front of us -- so we made sure not to see them too often.
My sister and her husband now live in our old place and the neighbor went out of her way to make some rude comments to my sister while my sister was in the middle of a tennis game: "Are you pregnant? Thank god (you're not). Well, you should work out more," etc.
For whatever reason, these comments were meant to be hurtful as it is the neighbor's personality to be so.
Since then, my husband and I have ignored the neighbors' attempted requests to get together. In our limited free time, I don't want to pretend to be friendly with someone so purposely hurtful.
However, the neighbor has not gotten the message, and I feel that in order for me to do the right thing, I may owe her some sort of explanation or response.
My sister doesn't want me to say anything because she runs into the neighbors occasionally, and she's afraid it may make their life more difficult. (It is a condo community, and he is president of the board.) What is the polite way for me to handle this situation?
GENTLE READER: Your suggestion seems to be to solve a minor problem for yourself by creating a major problem for your sister. This could lead to your own major problem with your sister.
Why must you explain? The way to drop acquaintances is to keep being too busy to have time for them until they give up. It is annoying when that takes a long time, as it evidently does here, but not much of a burden compared to living near antagonized neighbors.
No good ever comes of telling people why you don't like them. And Miss Manners notices that you waited to propose leveling with them until you moved safely away. Please refrain from creating an unsafe environment for your sister.