DEAR MISS MANNERS: While shopping the other day with my mother, we ran into a family friend/acquaintance and her newborn son. While my mom cooed over him, I turned to her and asked how she was doing.
She started talking about her baby. I stood there with a smile on my face and agreed that her son was cute. When leaving, I told her "It was nice to see you."
After we were out of earshot, my mother jumped all over me, wanting to know why I was so rude. I couldn't understand it. I believe I was polite, but no, I did not fawn all over the baby. I pointed out to my mother that while I asked how she was, she didn't ask how I was doing.
Is it a necessity that a newborn is the center of all conversations? Would it have been better if I had gone straight for the baby talk and exclamations about his attributes?
Now that she's a mother, is she no longer expected to participate in pleasantries? I understand that she's had a major life change, but does that mean that all talk now has to be about her and the baby and nothing else?
GENTLE READER: Can you not manage to squeeze out one "What an adorable baby!" before moving on to other subjects?
Granted, you are not interested in babies, and the new mother is now interested in little else. Miss Manners is not asking you to do a full kitchy-kitchy-koo. However, it is customary to declare all babies adorable; that is the tribute we pay to the future. One of those babies will grow up to be your gerontologist.
Besides, you soon discovered that you were not going to get any other conversation out of the new mother, so you could have paid your compliment and moved on, comforting yourself that in a short time, your friend, no less besotted with her child, will nevertheless be longing for some adult conversation.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation to an engagement party/dinner. In the envelope, a small card was inserted reading, "We kindly request that you leave the choice of the gift to the engaged couple."
How exactly should I take this? I always thought that when you get engaged you do not get a gift. When you get married you get a gift, and what happens if the wedding would get called off?
I was thrown off by what feels like a rude way of asking for money! Please help me in my understanding of this.
GENTLE READER: You understand this perfectly well: Rude people are making a blatant attempt to exploit their friends. Personally, Miss Manners would be inclined to let them have the pleasure of handling their own presents entirely -- choosing, finding and purchasing.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I take day trips with a seniors group. The trips usually include group lunches. Frequently, a person will say to us, "You don't eat very much."
We think that is rude. We don't mention to them that they eat too much -- or too fast -- as most of them do. How do we respond to their comments?
GENTLE READER: Aside from the folly of getting into a discussion of your eating habits, Miss Manners advises a non-quite-relevant answer to throw such people off balance. "It's delicious, isn't it?" for example.