DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband, a writer who teaches in a low-residency MFA program, sometimes comes into contact with well-known writers who come to his program to read.
On one occasion, he had to write the introduction for the work of the writer who was going to read. That person never said a word to him, even though he sat beside him at the dinner that followed.
Now, it’s true my husband isn’t one to toady up to people. He’s quiet and rather shy, but that doesn’t seem to be any excuse for that kind of rudeness. It happened again when my husband read with another well-known writer (to great applause, as it happened) and the other writer never even said a word to him (like “good reading”).
Is there a solution for this, like “Pour a bucket of water on their heads”? Or is it just “Grin and bear it”?
GENTLE READER: Although not one to defend churlishness, even in writers, Miss Manners notes that, in the situations you describe, the burdens on the well-known writers and your husband are not the same.
As the teacher of the course, your husband is the host. This means it is his responsibility to draw out his guests over dinner, perhaps even to compliment their performances. That they do not reciprocate is a justification for not inviting them back, not for sending them home wet.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What are your recommendations for dealing with people who go door to door, bothering neighbors with religious solicitations?
I don’t bring up religion in conversation, and it strikes me as brazen that others want to ambush me with an abrupt, prying assault on my privacy at my front door. Out of cowardice, these self-serving people often bring their children, so victims won’t say what they really feel about the intrusion. I’ve also heard that “witnessing” is actually using the unfortunate “audience” to test their own faith and ability to debate.
People know where to find a church if they want one. Please, what do I do?
GENTLE READER: Although she is not going to applaud knocking on someone’s door to make a sale, Miss Manners will not -- when the commodity is religion -- go so far as to say that the action itself is rude.
What follows, however, may be. The solicitor certainly has no right to insist on an audience, and the homeowner has a right to reject the offer, firmly and quickly. This means saying, “Thank you, we are not interested,” and closing the door -- without hesitation, but also without anger.
Think of what you want the solicitor’s child to understand: that you can behave decently even when dad is obviously making a nuisance of himself, or that maybe he has a point about the people behind closed doors being angry and lost?
(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.)