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Miss Manners: Is Nose-Blowing Acceptable at the Table?


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dear Miss Manners: I was out with a lady friend of mine when my nose started to run. I pulled out my handkerchief and blew my nose. She then told me that it is rude to do so at the table.

This is the first time in my 59 years of living that I ever heard such a thing. Is she right? I would not ever mean to be rude.

Gentle Reader: And you have doubts about how polite it would be to sit there letting your nose drip?

Miss Manners receives lots of complaints about nose-blowing, but such denunciations are never accompanied by alternative suggestions.

It is true that if there is a serious nasal problem, the offender might be better off home in bed. But for lesser problems, even if they are chronic, it is not so easy to keep leaving the table.

She presumes that it is when the blowing is accompanied by unattractive honking that it offends. Perhaps you can learn to blow discreetly and quietly, unless the situation is indeed serious enough to make you leave the table.

But unpleasant noises that have no place at the table include accusations of rudeness lobbed at one’s fellow diners.

Dear Miss Manners: At this time of year many of my friends, acquaintances and employees have children graduating from high school or college. Since I know many of them are having difficulty raising funds for further education, it seems to me that cash might be welcome, but I don’t wish to insult them. Could cash be considered an insult?

Gentle Reader: Yes, but an amazing number of people are now eager to be so insulted.

Dear Miss Manners: I understand that mere sympathy cards are not the proper way to express condolences. I have written condolence letters to friends whose loved ones I had some relationship with, and could discuss.

But what do I say when I only know my friend and didn’t know their loved one?

I have a friend who is caring for her terminally ill brother. They have had a difficult and distant relationship. I have never met her brother and know nothing else about him.

I will certainly be able to offer condolences to my friend on her loss, but can think of little else to say.

It seems to me that a blank page of stationery with a few sentences on it looks more depressing than a beautiful card with those sentences written at the bottom of the preprinted wording.

Gentle Reader: You have already told Miss Manners enough to fill a page: that you care for your friend and sympathize with her bereavement, that you know what good care she took of her brother, and that you are thinking of her at this difficult time.

Dear Miss Manners: My wife passed away suddenly, two years ago, at the age of 48. My son is getting married this year, and I’m struggling with inviting friends that my wife did not approve of. Would it be disrespectful of my wife’s memory if they were invited to my son’s wedding?

Gentle Reader: It is said that the good we do lives on after us — while the bad dies with us. Making this happen sometimes requires the active participation of the living. Your wife may have had good reasons for disapproving of some of your friends, but disapproval is not a flattering thing for which to be remembered. Miss Manners recommends that you conveniently forget why she felt that way, issue the invitations, and dwell on more uplifting memories.

Dear Miss Manners: I have been working for a very small family company as a receptionist for nine years now. Their daughter, whom I saw grow up, just got married. However, I am still irking over what they did to me.

I was invited to the bachelorette party, where I brought a gift, of course. I was invited to the wedding and to the general cake reception. I was told that the full reception, to be held later that night, was for close friends and family only, so I was not invited to that.

I was asked to pick up, set up and serve cake for the general cake reception, which I did, and once I cleaned up everything, I went my jolly way home.

Later that night, I see the videos posted on social media by everyone from the full reception, and it was huge! Everyone was there. All the employees of the company, and even one that only started working there three months ago!

I am still irking about that and I am considering quitting because I feel like a complete, unappreciated fool. Or should I let this go? Am I being envious and too petty because I did not get invited to the full reception?

Gentle Reader: “I enjoyed your daughter’s wedding so much that I am happy to waive any overtime I accrued for working at it. I hope that she will also enjoy the silver vase I sent.”

If the family does not have the good grace to be embarrassed by this, Miss Manners hopes that they will at least hesitate before posting their next party on social media.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it acceptable polite behavior to ball up a paper napkin and put it in your dirty plate when you’re done eating?

Gentle Reader: As opposed to pocketing it for later? While cloth napkins should be placed to the side of one’s plate once used, paper ones are meant to be disposed of. And Miss Manners finds a dirty plate more acceptable for that than a clean hand.

Dear Miss Manners: I have a co-worker with whom I worked closely in the past, but we are currently in different areas of the same school building. When I worked with her, she was experiencing infertility issues; however, she recently announced she is expecting a baby girl.

I am thrilled for her and proceeded to hand-make a few special items. I try to make something for each mother/ child that I work with. In a recent conversation, she expressed her plan to have a baby shower in the near future. I would like to be included in the invitation list, simply because I would like to celebrate this happy occasion with her.

How do I mention the subject of an invitation without overtly inviting myself, or putting her in a position to feel obligated to invite me if her plans did not include former co-workers?

Gentle Reader: “I have a small present for the baby. Please let me know when a good time to give it to you would be.” This prompts the expectant mother to realize that inviting you might be worth her while if she was not already planning it.

Miss Manners is written by Judith Martin, her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. You are invited to email your etiquette questions from www.missmanners.com, if you promise to use the black or blue-black ink you’ll save by writing those thank you, condolence and congratulations letters you owe.