DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I like unusual, hard-to-find wines. Frequently, dinner events have wine as part of the dinner, but you can also buy more interesting wines from the hotel or restaurant. Often the hotel gives you your bottle during the cocktail hour.
At the event, people we don’t know hold out a glass and say, “I’ll have a glass of that.”
I explain that we bought it separately to have with dinner, and usually that takes care of it. Or we tell them that waiters are passing wines, but they say, “Yes, but not THAT.”
My husband finally told one pushy woman that the bottle was $140, and he’d sell it to her for that. She yelled, “I just want a GLASS!”
We’ve gone to informal BYOB dinners with two bottles, knowing that we’ll do well to keep one bottle for ourselves. How do we best deal with Malbec moochers without appearing antisocial?
GENTLE READER: While Miss Manners does not condone the behavior of the person demanding a glass of whatever you were drinking, sharing is still central to social intercourse. The solution to your problem is to separate your two, incompatible activities: Go out on even-numbered days, and enjoy your unusual wines at home on odd days.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude to give advice to someone who did not ask for advice? Under what circumstances is unsolicited advice polite?
GENTLE READER: Unsolicited advice may be given discreetly if it will save the recipient from imminent embarrassment.
Miss Manners used to cite the example of one lady taking another lady aside to warn her that her underwear is showing, but she realizes this may no longer meet her stated precondition.
Beyond this, etiquette limits the privilege of giving unsolicited advice to teachers, mentors and parents -- and only when acting in that capacity. Be warned that etiquette having no objection to such proffers does not guarantee a welcoming reaction from the recipient.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I really feel bad when I am in front of an elderly or handicapped person on an elevator and I step out of ahead of him or her. However, it is awkward and creates major traffic problems if I step back into the crowd. What should I do?
GENTLE READER: Move to a clear location -- i.e., leave the elevator -- and, once you are clear of traffic, turn around to assist by holding the elevator door.
It is no use protesting to Miss Manners that this is unnecessary, as elevator doors remain open so long as there is someone in the entrance. The action is intended to demonstrate your concern and good manners, not your efficacy as a doorstop.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When sorbet is served between courses, how much are you to eat? I say a few bites, my husband says ALL OF IT!
GENTLE READER: Because sorbet served between courses is considered a palate cleanser, portions are meant to be small.
But if your host mistakes the sorbet for a down payment on dessert, Miss Manners recommends leaving some on your plate. This is less a requirement of etiquette than a way to survive the meal.
(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.)