DEAR MISS MANNERS: A colleague of mine likes to tell jokes and will preface a punchline with "Pardon my French," and then follow with something that is either obscene or offensive, ending with a boisterous laugh.
I detest this sort of boorish behavior, but any look of disdain on my behalf only leads him to take further aim at me, saying things like, "Oh, we mustn't offend poor Tania!" making me look prudish and stuffy, which I am not.
I must deal with him frequently and can never be certain when he'll erupt into this sort of embarrassing vulgarity. Can Miss Manners suggest a way to respond?
GENTLE READER: If you will first kindly explain to Miss Manners what is so terrible about being considered prudish and stuffy. By your own account, we could use a touch more of that, considering how much we have of the opposite.
But as you asked for an alternative, Miss Manners suggests, “I’m afraid you are about to offend our French friends. They would hate being characterized as a smutty nation.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you politely decline an invitation to a friend’s house because you feel they are not careful enough or do not wear masks?
GENTLE READER: By resisting the temptation to deliver a lecture in return for an offer of hospitality. If you say, “Thank you, but I am leading a restricted life these days,” Miss Manners hopes your friend will resist the temptation to lecture you -- and perhaps even be influenced by your example.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude for a person to ask what a student's grades are?
GENTLE READER: Not if it is your parent. Miss Manners agrees that anyone else who does is rude, starting with the fellow student who is only looking for a chance to show off.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Back in the 1970s, my mother-in-law wanted me to call her “Mom,” and every weekend, when my husband and I went to her home for Sunday dinner, she started the hug hello and then the hug goodbye.
This felt foreign to me. “Mom" was reserved for my mom, and I don’t feel like hugging anyone unless there’s an extreme reason to, such as if someone is ill, or close to death, or if you haven’t seen them in some time. I was an only child and brought up to be more reserved. My husband was also an only child, but apparently in a more huggy family.
Fast-forward and I think, did it really hurt for me to hug her? After all, she never had a daughter and lost her husband and mother in a three-week period. It was acting on my part maybe, but it made her feel good. Like they say, “Pick your battles.”
GENTLE READER: Huggy time has now passed, the pandemic having made us learn ways of showing good will without touching. And as hugs were overused, Miss Manners is not sorry to see them go as a routine greeting, but she will miss handshakes.
However, she appreciates the lesson you learned from this experience: that sometimes it is worthwhile to make trivial compromises in order to make someone happy.
(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.)