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Miss Manners: Preparing Meals Yourself Can Help Avoid ‘Stuffing’

Dear Miss Manners: While staying at my boyfriend’s family’s cabin for a long holiday weekend, we encountered a bit of a generation gap in diet styles. His parents, in their efforts to “treat” us, prepared three meat-and-potatoes-type meals each day, like bacon, pancakes and potatoes for breakfast, and dessert at each meal. In addition, they asked us again and again to “finish up the last serving,” in many cases stuffing us to the point of indigestion. We arrived with some of our own groceries, primarily vegetables, yogurt and fruit, in an attempt to pre-empt some of this, to no avail.

How can we convey our healthier eating preferences without hurting their feelings? My boyfriend and I are both fit and active. His parents, on the other hand, have heart conditions and high cholesterol.

Gentle Reader: That makes it easier. Not on them, of course, but on you.

You should not be dealing with your appetites, but with theirs. Their son must start with an expression of serious concern about their health, and a plea that they at least try to eat more sensibly.

You must stay out of this, only jumping in enthusiastically when he asks that they let the two of you cook for them for a weekend, promising that you will both do your best to make the food enticing.

Miss Manners cautions you not to speak of this as a diet, and not to notice if they are sneaking food on the side. At the very least, you will have had a weekend to your taste, and perhaps even have benefited them.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it inappropriate to wear a red dress to a wedding? (I’m a guest, not the bride.) Somewhere I heard that it was a statement to say that you opposed the marriage.

Gentle Reader: Really? You heard that etiquette thoughtfully provides a sabotage-the-wedding dress code for disgruntled guests?

Actually, there has been a ban on wedding guests wearing red, but for a reason you will find even more astonishing: It was considered too racy for a wedding. Now that brides want to look racy, Miss Manners considers that a lost cause.

D ear Miss Manners: I am a artist and participate in many art shows. Generally. these shows and festivals are on the weekends, open to the public. Often they are set up in tents on city streets and in parks.

Many times at these shows, people will ask if my work is selling. These questions are almost always from people who are not my customers. It usually is, “Are you selling anything? Making any money?” Sometimes it is worse — people think nothing of asking if I am actually making a living. (I am, thank you.)

I do not ask perfect strangers how much money they make. I want to be polite, but I also want to try to make them understand this is not an appropriate question. We artists are there to exhibit our work, so ask questions about the work, not my private business.

How should I respond to these questions? I have started to say things like, “It’s been a nice day.”

Gentle Reader: Try, “Yes, I went into it for the money. What I really dreamed of doing, ever since I was a small child, was to become a stockbroker.”

Dear Miss Manners: Should I loan a small amount of money to a friend?

Gentle Reader: If you are sure that you can, if necessary, spare both.

D ear Miss Manners: I am annoyed by the way my significant other handles my calls. Although he is tethered to his cellphone, I do not expect him to pick up every call; it is the lifeline for his business.

Annoyance one: He will answer the phone but announce, “I can’t talk now; I’ll call you later” and hang up, leaving me no chance to leave a message. Isn’t this why we have voicemail, to handle calls we can’t take?

Second annoyance: He never listens to his messages, insisting it is more polite to return the call. I think if I have taken the time to leave a message, and I try to be brief, he could take the time to listen. I don’t like to repeat myself, for one, and I may not need to be called back — the message may be all that is needed to clear a situation.

He believes his way is the most polite, but I don’t believe good manners would be so annoying.

Gentle Reader: If Miss Manners recommends texting, will you understand that she by no means condones its butchering of the language? As the electronic equivalent of a Post-it note, it gets the message across without interrupting the receiver.

However, at the risk of starting a domestic dispute, Miss Manners agrees with you. With caller ID, there is no reason not to let the call go to voicemail if you know you cannot take it. Being told it’s a bad time to take a call by the person who just answered it is as illogical as it is impolite.

You are invited to email your etiquette questions from www.missmanners.com.