DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know that one is not supposed to point out lapses in polite behavior to others. But how can one hope to change questionable behavior in others without breaking this rule?
My significant other and I often go to happy hours instead of dining more formally. This practice takes us to bars. When we approach the bar, my partner seats himself comfortably and waits for me to squeeze in beside him, regardless of the number of occupied stools.
Is he breaking any rules? I feel that he is, but I do not point this out to him due to rule one, not pointing out lapses in others. Can you help me?
GENTLE READER: It's called "Honey, would you mind ...?"
It is true that Miss Manners is rules-crazy, because she doesn't want people making up their own etiquette, which, oddly enough, always turns out to favor them at the expense of others. As you know, she wants that particular rule obeyed.
But if your Other is as Significant as you say, surely he would want to please you. And if couples were not allowed an occasional plea of "Honey, I know you don't mean it, but there's something that drives me crazy," the divorce rate would be approximately 100 percent.
Notice that this phrasing does not tax the other person with the rudeness of breaking a rule. It merely states a personal request. If you do this as you are headed to the bar -- "This time, would you mind letting me get seated first? It's awkward trying to slip in beside you" -- you should be able to accomplish your objective even more gently.