DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was in line at the post office, a woman stood directly behind me instead of on the plainly marked circle 6 feet away. I asked her politely to move back to the marker -- not once, but twice.
I was furious when she did not move back. She was less than 12 inches away from me. What else could I have done without causing a scene?
GENTLE READER: Suggest she go first, and then move to a position 6 feet behind her.
Miss Manners realizes that this may sound like rewarding bad behavior, but she assures you that all but the most hardened offenders will find this mortifying. And because you were polite, it will be difficult for the woman to retaliate.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Through an intense elimination diet and intermittent fasting, my aunt has finally achieved a healthy weight after many years of unsuccessful dieting. We are all happy for her, but her fraught relationship with food is ruining the holidays and birthdays my family and I spend with her.
When she hosts and cooks for us, she serves desserts in big portions. When I cook for her, I also serve dessert, while trying to accommodate her dietary restrictions and the expectations of my family. In both cases, at dessert time, she almost always talks about how she never eats sugar anymore, how she does not intend to eat any now, and then finally how she cannot help herself from eating some.
Afterward, she continually talks about how badly the sugar has affected her and how much weight she gained from it.
When she hosts, she sends us home with all the leftover dessert, and I feel obliged to take it even though it is often more than even my big family can eat. And when I host, I feel like I am forcing her to eat something she thinks is bad for her, despite my best efforts to convey politely that no one will be offended if she passes on the birthday cake.
I love her and want her to share in these celebrations with my family but, having a little postpartum weight to lose myself, I do not appreciate being reminded of calories right before enjoying some celebratory indulgence.
Is there any way to shield myself and my family from her weird food anxieties? A big part of her identity is having the “correct” views on food and wellness, so I fear anything I say to her about this will be taken poorly.
GENTLE READER: What would you say to her? That her food anxiety is communicable, a bore, or both? Miss Manners agrees that, even if this were not rude, it would not work. Better to change the subject -- as often as necessary.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am having a birthday party, and my sister-in-law wants to bring her friend whose birthday is the same night as mine. Is it rude of me to say no?
GENTLE READER: No, but Miss Manners recommends doing so on the basis of acquaintance (specifically, lack thereof) rather than competition. And once you explain that you are inviting only your friends, you had better do so.
(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.)