DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a stay-at-home mother, and I also care for my aging mom. I consider it a great blessing to be able to do this.
Why is it anyone else’s business, other than my husband’s, about when I sleep or don’t sleep?
I am awake at 6 a.m. to get breakfast ready for my husband and daughter. I get them off to work/school, then I walk down the street to check on my mom. Then, sometimes, I go back to sleep till late morning.
I am very organized, so my day runs smoothly. Chores, housework and dinner are always done. Yet when I turn my phone on silent to nap, between 8-11 a.m., I will miss calls from different family and friends. These are always met later with, “Wow, I can’t believe you slept so late! Why do you sleep so much?”
Why is it their business when I sleep? How do I respond to this without being rude, or going into detail that everything is getting done -- I just choose to nap?
GENTLE READER: For some years now, young people have been using their telephones for just about every activity in their lives except one: the one for which this handy instrument is named. They don’t use it to talk, in real time, to real people.
Miss Manners may not be quite used to this, but she understands it. As she has long noted, the telephone is inherently rude. It demands that you stop whatever you are doing and respond instantly to its demands. And robocalling is rampant, despite government attempts to stop it, which makes the telephone even more of a nuisance.
But your callers are used to being able to reach people by telephone, and their comments sound less like worry about your well-being than peevishness at your temporary unavailability. You must wean them from that expectation by announcing that you often don’t answer the telephone -- do not specify the time, as this should apply to any uninterrupted time you may want -- but that they can reach you by text or voice message. Explain that you will eventually get back to them, by calling if they prefer, or by texting.
Of course, they will declare this to be dangerous in case of emergency. People always do, as if we all lived on red alert, expecting catastrophe. But if you will also turn off your telephone when you are with your children, your husband or your mother, and when you are cooking, eating or driving, they will eventually get used to it.
Should they continue to ask what you are doing with your unplugged time, Miss Manners suggests, “I was in the hammock, eating chocolates and reading a racy French novel, and I couldn’t tear myself away.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Are the rules of etiquette the same for invited houseguests vs. self-invited houseguests?
GENTLE READER: The only difference is that you needn’t let self-invited guests cross your threshold. However, once you have let them in, Miss Manners will not allow you to classify first- and second-class guests.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)