DEAR MISS MANNERS: You’ve said it’s considered rude to correct others’ manners. I’ve always been told this, but it leads me to this question: How are others to learn better manners if they’re never corrected when they’re rude?
I realize it can be difficult to do this kindly if one is feeling insulted by the rudeness. But if it can be done nicely, wouldn’t it be helpful to say, “Shelby, do you realize how rude it is when you do X?”
I don’t expect you to change your mind on this point of etiquette, but I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts.
GENTLE READER: You are correct that if no one’s manners were ever corrected, we would all be eating with our hands and wiping our mouths on the tablecloth.
Miss Manners does not dictate that no one can correct another person’s manners -- only who may do so, and sometimes when. Parents may correct their own, growing children. Teachers may correct students.
It may interest you to know that Miss Manners, who, in her profession, corrects everyone, would consider it the height of rudeness were she to correct a friend or acquaintance face-to-face.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic, my brother, father and I are all living under the same roof. My nephew is getting married next year; whether or not we will be able to attend is still unknown.
We received three separate invitations to the event. Should we send the couple three individual gifts (most likely cash or checks), or would it be appropriate to pool together and send one envelope?
GENTLE READER: Putting aside the substance of the gift (Miss Manners does not consider money a proper present), you are right that presents are generally given per household. But the term is not to be understood in a literal way. For instance, a child’s parents would include him on the list of givers even if he is away at camp. And your mother-in-law, even if she lives upstairs, will want to send something separate as a measure of independence.
Assuming you and your brother are adults, the extra envelopes and stamps for three separate presents will not do lasting damage to the planet.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a lady who works in retail. What is the correct way to react to a man who walks up to me while I am working and says, with his eyes full of pity, “I wouldn’t want your job”?
The unsolicited comment always feels condescending, but I can’t exactly point that out to a customer. Other than asking the customer if they need assistance, is there something else I’m supposed to say? How am I supposed to answer?
GENTLE READER: It depends on what you hope to accomplish. A cool “May I help you?” rejects -- by not acknowledging -- the customer’s words, while satisfying the requirements of good manners. Miss Manners thinks this is a great deal. If, instead, your goal is to get into a conversation with your boss about your future in sales, then you may smile and tell him, “Well, I’m keeping it, so you can’t have it.”
(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.)