DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend is very fastidious about raising her two daughters to have impeccable manners. Their table manners are beautiful.
However, one aspect of their education has been overlooked. Her young girls (9 and 11) are constantly correcting anyone, including adults, about what they perceive to be lapses in good manners.
One example is when they very smugly reprimanded me that I shouldn't have my elbows on the table after dinner. Their mother seems to be proud that her girls are "leading the charge."
I adore these young ladies but would like them to be more respectful of me and my family. We take manners seriously in our home, too -- and that includes being courteous to others. How can I gently ask them to refrain from this behavior?
GENTLE READER: It never fails to amaze Miss Manners that so many people think that learning etiquette entitles them to be rude: that it is all right to violate the principles as long as you follow the particulars.
In this case, your young friends were probably not taught the principles of manners on which the specific etiquette rules they did learn are based. The principle here is a major one: prohibiting embarrassing others. Even Miss Manners does not make herself obnoxious by going around reprimanding others; she responds only when specifically invited to do so, and not always then.
Of course you are bound by the same rules, so you cannot reprimand the young ladies for their rudeness. But as you are on close terms with them, you can open a discussion about manners -- surely a riveting subject -- by complimenting them on their table manners and leading them into questions about the deeper purposes of etiquette.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When inviting someone with a disability to a social event where he or she might require accommodation, is there a polite way to inquire what I can do to make sure they have whatever they need to take part?
I do not want to ask intrusive or personal questions; however, I think that if I needed accommodations to participate in outdoor activities or weekends away that I might be too shy to ask the host for what I need.
I do not know the person very well, nor am I familiar with the various problem-solving strategies she presumably has for working with her disability; however, she has mentioned in passing that the local university campus is not very accessible, which is what got me thinking. It occurred to me that you would be just the person to ask.
GENTLE READER: Actually, the guest is just the person to ask. Disabilities vary, and no one knows better than the person affected what adjustments can reasonably be done to eliminate barriers.
Miss Manners appreciates your reticence up to a point. Indeed, it is always a good idea to refrain from asking personal questions, and people with disabilities receive more than their share. But it is merely gracious, not nosey, for a host to ask if there is anything she can do to accommodate her guest.