DEAR MISS MANNERS: My immediate family and our extended family members went out to eat after my daughter won second place (princess) in a county fair competition. My sister was going on and on about how she had picked the girl who won the first place (queen) position.
I thought this was terribly rude and insensitive to my daughter. To us, what she was saying was that she agreed with the judges that my daughter didn't perform well enough to get first place.
I determined that my sister had no idea she was being rude and insensitive, so I decided to ask her a question by making an analogy. I asked her, "Would you be saying this if it were your daughter?"
She got quite indignant, turned her back to me and hasn't spoken to me since. She thinks I was being rude by "involving her daughter"! I was simply making an analogy.
My mother thinks my daughter and I are "too sensitive," which to me is her way of justifying my sister's poor manners. In another setting, I'd have no problem with anyone expressing their opinions on the contest, but certainly not in front of my daughter. What do you say?
GENTLE READER: What does your daughter say?
Disputed claims to the throne, family factions breaking out in public, everyone feeling free to air criticism of her -- now she knows what it is like to be a princess.
Miss Manners didn't care for your sister's comment any more than you did, and she also dislikes the "too sensitive" put-down. But her first thought is how unpleasant it must have been for your daughter to have a luncheon that was supposedly in her honor turn into a family scene.
Your desire to defend your daughter is admirable. But it would have been better to have considered the effect on her feelings, not only of your sister's remark, but of your own. It made an issue of what might have simply passed, and it suggested that you were objecting only on the basis of family loyalty and not because your daughter performed so well.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Yesterday I had lunch with 11 other women. We were seated at a large round table. The waiter put a basket of rolls in the middle of the table.
When I wanted to take a roll, I realized that I could not reach it with my hands, nor could the other women. I used a clean fork and was able to "spear" the roll I wanted quickly. One woman looked at me in disgust and said that my "boarding house reach" was "unladylike" and she found my behavior offensive.
I told her to just get over it. Do you think that what I did was a "no-no" and, if so, how should I have handled it?
GENTLE READER: By asking that lady to pass the butter, please.
Yes-yes, it was a no-no. So is dressing down one's luncheon companions and, for that matter, serving bread that out of reach. If no waiter was in sight to put the basket within reach, your asking whether anyone could pass it would probably have inspired someone -- or permitted yourself -- to stand up and take the basket rather than to go roll-fishing.