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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

My Male Friends Keep Taking Over My Grill

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a widow in my mid-50s, and have been on my own for almost a decade. Occasionally I host informal groups of family or friends.

During the summer, I often plan menus with grilled meat because I have a propane barbecue out on the porch. It is a cantankerous old beast, but I am familiar with its eccentricities and can turn out perfectly respectable steak, chicken and grilled vegetables with little trouble. Plus, the house stays cooler.

However, there is one vexing problem I can’t seem to solve. Three times, after settling my guests indoors with drinks and snacks, I’ve gone outside to get our meals cooked, only to be intercepted by a man -- it’s always a man -- insisting that he will handle the grill.

I have said, “Oh, this won’t take long.” I’ve said, “Thanks, kindly, but I’ve got this.” And it’s as if I never spoke. One of them actually took the tongs and dish of meat right out of my hands!

I’m sure these gentlemen meant well, but I found their actions patronizing -- and more than a little galling when I had to choke down the burnt offerings that resulted (see: cantankerous barbecue). I’ve certainly never had any guest, male or female, insist on taking over the cooking duties in my kitchen -- only the outside grill.

I am hoping for a group visit from my extended family later on, pandemic permitting, but it would be a pity for someone to escape COVID only to meet a grisly end of being beaten to death with barbecue tongs.

Miss Manners, please help me avoid becoming a murderess. What could I have done to put a stop to this pattern? I will give grateful consideration to any advice you may care to vouchsafe.

GENTLE READER: Putting aside the legal and ethical aspects, murdering your male guests is a bad idea because they will die with a perplexed “What did I do?” look on their faces that will be profoundly unsatisfying.

Like you, Miss Manners is convinced these men meant well. If we were to peer inside their heads, we would see a childishly simple logic: “Grilling is men’s work. There is no man of the house. I must come to the rescue.” This does not make their behavior less rude, presumptuous or patronizing. But it provides a solution.

Your “Thank you, I will do this” should be delivered with the tone and bearing of an adult correcting a misguided child: not angry, but stern and unyielding. After you have made clear that this is not a negotiation, you can soothe your guest’s wounded pride with a kind smile or pat on the shoulder, paired with a patronizing, “I know you only wanted to make yourself useful.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m cleaning out belongings and discovered a package that was supposed to have been sent as a wedding gift in 2013 to a friend from college. Obviously, I let it fall through the cracks!

Should I send it after the fact, maybe with a note explaining the situation? Or just let it go?

GENTLE READER: Your indecision about whether or not to send the gift is easy for Miss Manners to understand; your question about whether sending it will require an accompanying note, less so.

Yes, send the gift, and yes, accompany it with a humorous -- and apologetic -- letter.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)