DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 16-year-old girl who was taught to be polite and to say “please” and “thank you.” I try to be grateful and thank the people around me, even for little things like answering a simple question or handing me something.
What bothers me is when people immediately say “you’re welcome” before I have a chance to thank them. It comes across to me as if they are assuming that what they’ve done deserves to be thanked, and it feels as if it takes the courtesy away when I respond with “thank you.” Am I the only one who finds this rude? How can I respond to this?
GENTLE READER: Acknowledging thanks that have not been expressed is more than an assumption: It is often a thinly veiled criticism. But as you did not yet thank the person, now is not the time to start a fight.
Miss Manners suggests leaning in with an enthusiastic, “I was going to say: Thank you so, so much!” The implicit counter-criticism will be all the more clear if your emphatic gratitude is out of proportion to the action being acknowledged.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our daughter was married last August, and my husband and I hosted a prenuptial dinner for close family and out-of-town guests at our home. The brides had previously sent an email to the wedding guests to let them know that alcohol would not be served at the wedding.
Out of respect for their wishes and our own sensibilities, we only served lemonade, iced tea and water at the dinner.
My sister-in-law came into our kitchen where the buffet was set out, carrying a brown paper bag containing two wine bottles. She left it on a counter, after pouring herself the first of a few glasses.
I was upset that she not only brought alcohol, but left the wine out on the counter. Not knowing what to say, I said nothing. Days later, it occurred to me that I could have moved it to a corner and quietly told her where it was. I didn’t want to ruffle her feathers, but she sure ruffled mine. Should this ever happen again, what would you suggest I say or do?
GENTLE READER: A hostess who keeps a wine bottle in the kitchen for herself is treating her guests with inexcusable rudeness -- even if she does not get caught. And normal guests are, with modest exceptions, expected to stick to the menu (though they may, of course, decline specific items).
As a family member, your sister-in-law was both -- and neither. You would presumably appreciate her treating your house as a second home, within reason, and you have some duty to protect her from the consequences of her own rudeness.
But you may also ask yourself if her inability to get through the evening without a drink itself requires further inquiry. Assuming her rudeness was casual, and not more serious, Miss Manners would have moved the bottle to an inconspicuous spot and told your sister-in-law where to find it, as you mentioned, while cautioning her not to flaunt it. You can tell your brother about it after the party.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)