DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have divergent interests, and I often attend events such as the ballet on my own. I enjoy getting to know people during the intermissions, but occasionally the conversation has taken a bad turn.
Occasionally, if I am speaking with a married couple, one or the other will intone, when they find out that I am married, that I should have taken my husband hostage and forced him to attend the event with me.
I need to know if I was the one in the wrong the last time, when the couple I was talking to said outright, "Why didn't you force your husband to come with you?" I replied, "Because it's just not his thing."
The wife responded, "He must not love you like my husband loves me. George hates the ballet, but here he is!"
I was insulted, and I simply begged off by saying, "It was very nice to meet you. I must get a drink before intermission ends. Have a good time." I didn't acknowledge the wife's comment. As I walked away, I overheard the wife say, "Well, that was rude!" (It certainly was -- on her end!) I was taken aback.
Should I have handled the situation differently? Was I being rude? I felt I was being gracious by not engaging in debate or defending my husband's honor over such a rude comment. Your thoughts?
GENTLE READER: That you must love your husband more than this lady loves George. And that you showed admirable restraint in not saying so.
Furthermore, Miss Manners assures you that the etiquette judgment of someone who accuses strangers of being unloved is not worth considering.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I won't be having my holiday dinner parties this year. And this makes me sad.
It seems as though everyone has become a special-needs person when it comes to being a dinner guest. Every dish is questioned as to content and nutritional value. "That is so bad for you," and, "I couldn't eat that; it's not on my (Diet of the Month)."
One has always thought that a polite decline of any dish was enough. But some have to go into long explanations of why they couldn't possibly eat something so horrible.
I cook with love and care, and only wish to entertain with delicious, nutritious food, to be a gracious host, and certainly not to endanger the lives of my guests. Has passively insulting one's host become the norm? I hope not.
GENTLE READER: Indeed, hospitality has suffered greatly from the all-too-prevalent habit of food fussing. Miss Manners hates to think of your abandoning your holiday dinners, but she thoroughly understands why you would not be thankful to entertain a table full of childish ingrates.
Should you reconsider, she recommends your citing an old rule of etiquette that you will have trouble believing ever existed. So will any guests you might relent enough to entertain, which is why you can cite it as a curiosity that it would be fun to try.
That is a complete ban on talking about food at the table. And "complete" means that even compliments are not allowed. That part was abandoned to acknowledge the hosts' efforts when the middle class no longer employed cooks. Eventually, the rule was forgotten entirely, opening the way for complaints. We badly need that ban back. Appreciative guests can praise the food in their letters of thanks.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)