DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have a perpetual disagreement about who should say something first when a person bites her/his tongue at the dinner table and then exclaims out loud in a most jarring way.
He thinks the companion should offer sympathy to the tongue-biter first, and then the tongue-biter can apologize for disrupting the table. I think the opposite. What do you think? This crops up more often than you might expect and has become a wedge between us.
GENTLE READER: It comes up quite a bit more often than Miss Manners would think, if it troubles you enough to write to her about it. (What are you putting in the food?) But since it does, the tongue-biter should go first -- presuming from your description that the disruption is of a nature to require an apology.
Miss Manners recognizes that this gives the biter less time to recover before speaking, and wonders if, given the large amount of practice your husband is getting, he might not devote some time to toning down his reaction.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We understand the occasional need for a host to cancel a dinner party at the last minute. But when we received last-minute cancellations on two occasions during the past year with the explanation being that “the other guests could not make it,” we felt jilted.
We enjoy socializing with this couple, and avoid commenting about their canceled parties. However, we consider this rude behavior, and thought that an impartial opinion would serve us well.
GENTLE READER: It is to avoid this problem that hosts have secret “A” and “B” lists: so that empty places can be filled when guests decline an invitation without disenfranchising those who said “yes.”
This does not explain the problem cropping up at the last minute, unless perhaps the other guests were all arriving on the same canceled flight. In that case, Miss Manners counsels the host to explain the situation and apologetically offer a specific alternate date. Otherwise, she agrees that your erstwhile host’s behavior is rude.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Usually when I walk around school or in public, men are always opening doors for me and letting me go first. I guess they do it out of respect for women.
Now, if I open the door and another woman is about to walk through, should I let her go first and hold the door for her, or should I go first?
GENTLE READER: One holds the door for ladies (if a gentleman), those older than oneself, and people for whom opening the door would be a burden.
This latter group includes everything from someone struggling with a heavy package to wheelchair users, although in the latter case, etiquette also demands careful attention to the sensibilities of the beneficiary -- who may not appreciate a too-cavalier assumption of inability. Being a woman, and assuming that the other woman is your own age and unencumbered, you may proceed to enter. Miss Manners would not press the point if a collision is the likely result.
(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.)