DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude to begin a conversation with "I don't want to start a fight, but ..." and then say something rude, challenging or confrontational? Another version I've heard is "Don't get mad, but ..." just before a person says something rude.
While this declaration is fine on certain occasions (such as when a trusted friend is telling me a hard truth from a place of love), I do find it hard to deal with on others. It seems to me that it is a way to shift blame from the person saying something rude to the person who hears an insult and then feels the need to respond by dispelling or challenging whatever was said.
P.S. The person who says this most often is my ex-husband. "Don't get mad, but I no longer care about your feelings." I suppose a candid "Me too" might've been a better reaction than trying to justify why we should get along for the sake of our shared child.
GENTLE READER: Oh. Miss Manners was about to handle this as the nasty habit some people have of trying to head off the consequences of insulting others by classifying them as helpful. But that was before she read your postscript.
Of course it is rude. Not caring about the feelings of others is practically the definition of rudeness, and saying so takes it up another notch. Your ex-husband was trying to be rude. You don't need Miss Manners to tell you that. She only hopes that for the sake of your child, you do not descend to his level.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: May I call my doctors, including dentists, by their first names? I have been their patient for almost 20 years.
GENTLE READER: And therefore you feel you are on the same terms with them as others with whom you take off your clothes or welcome into your mouth?
Miss Manners does not recommend dispensing with the formality of professional relationships, which makes that useful distinction.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: There is a disturbing trend that my husband and I have experienced from weekend guests. These are friends who previously have said that we have the best bed-and-breakfast in California.
When they woke up, the wife greeted us with, "You need another blanket on the bed." I asked if they had used the room heater or the comforter; they didn't use the heater and said the comforter was too heavy. I felt that this was akin to how one might respond to a rental.
She also complained about the food, making our dinner very uncomfortable. (My husband is a great cook and everyone says so.) I felt that this was akin to a restaurant review.
Needless to say, we have not invited these "friends" back. I write to alert your readers not to apply online behavior to personal experiences.
GENTLE READER: Indeed. Perhaps you should not have been so flattered about being compared to a B&B.
The confusion between the commercial and social worlds has become commonplace, with guests expecting to set conditions and hosts demanding contributions and even payment. In your situation, Miss Manners would have been tempted to sympathize with the guests, saying, "I'm so sorry you're not comfortable here. Let me find you a good hotel."
(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.)