DEAR MISS MANNERS: While I was at an outdoor gathering, another guest arrived, and began walking towards me to give me a customary kiss and hug. On the way, he passed by the buffet table, grabbed a handful of food and proceeded to shove it into his mouth. Only, not all of it managed to find its way in. Much of it was left on his lips, around his mouth and, of course, on his hand.
As he approached me, I backed away and begged off the kiss and hug. He seemed quite offended so, as politely and gently as I could, I informed him that he had food all over his mouth.
He then proceeded to wipe his mouth with his arm, said “There! All better now!” and moved towards me again.
Well, it was NOT all better, but merely smeared around. When I tried to escape him once again, trying very hard not to say something foolish, he became even more offended, then cursed and walked away. I avoided him for the rest of the get-together and he, me.
I still cringe when I think about it. I feel badly for offending him, but cannot help but think how offensive it would have been for ME to succumb to a messy, icky kiss.
Is there any way I could have handled the situation better? Or should I just hope that I do not have the pleasure of meeting up with him again -- unless I’m ahead of the buffet table?
GENTLE READER: Please permit Miss Manners a moment of “eeewwww” before she pulls herself together and offers the polite sacrifice she might have made. Artfully suppressing her gag reflex, she would have offered her own handkerchief to the gentleman, holding it up in front of his face and, if necessary, offering to help.
However, not everyone is a martyr to courtesy, and, regretfully, not everyone carries a pocket handkerchief nowadays. But you could have backed away with a smile and said, “Let me get you a napkin.”