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Miss Manners: Stop Cooking for Preoccupied Boyfriends

Published: 5/11/2018 5:26:41 PM
Modified: 5/11/2018 5:26:56 PM

Dear Miss Manners: Is it rude to leave food getting cold when someone cooks for you?

This is a point of contention between my boyfriend and me. It irritates me to no end when I take the time to make a meal for him, and he lets it sit there getting cold while he does stupid things.

Gentle Reader: Letting one’s food get cold is not, in itself, an etiquette violation. The “stupid things” may be.

Examples include leaving the table during a meal without a good excuse, answering emails instead of engaging in conversation, and arranging stick-figure scenes with your green beans.

Miss Manners notes that the reward for changing those behaviors will be lively conversation that will bring you closer together. Assuming the conversation was not the stupid thing.

Dear Miss Manners: I am not in the best financial position, making hourly wages and being 63 years old. My daughter invited me to Mother’s Day lunch, and my son invited me for Mother’s Day dinner. Am I supposed to bring presents to both my daughter and my daughter-in-law?

Gentle Reader: Surely it is only that they wish to honor you.

Well, maybe. The sweet concept of honoring one’s mother keeps spreading. Many husbands have adopted the habit of honoring their wives as mothers of their children, which seems not unreasonable as they have to help young children do this anyway.

But some mothers expect a bizarre U-turn, in which their mothers and mothers-in-law should honor them. And eventually, the concept became so diffused as to be applied to nearly everyone who is, or could be, a mother. Any female will do; those who are childless or bereaved complain of strangers presuming their maternal happiness.

Leaving aside the disdain that Miss Manners’ own dear mother had for Mother’s Day (on the grounds that there existed no day on which mothers should not be honored), things have gone too far.

You need only enjoy the arrangements that your children have made in your honor. No presents are necessary. But it would be gracious of you to take the opportunity to say some admiring words about the mothers of your grandchildren.

Dear Miss Manners: What do you think of the practice of service people, teachers, instructors, etc. who take care of one’s children calling the mother “Mom”?

For example, I take my child to the doctor’s office and when the nurse calls my child to the room, she addresses me like this: “Mom, we are going to Room 3, do you have any questions today?”

I find this happens all the time, and I’m guessing that people don’t feel like introducing themselves and finding out the mother’s name. Personally, I think my children should be the only ones to address me as “Mom,” but perhaps I should get over it.

But then again, maybe they wouldn’t mind if I addressed them as “Nurse Person” or “Instructor.”

I make an effort to know these people who are taking care of my children. Why can’t service people return the courtesy by introducing themselves?

Gentle Reader: The receptionist has your name; it is right there on the forms you filled out as the adult accompanying your child. And if his or her name is on a badge, you can use that.

But there is no absolute need for introductions. You could have been addressed as “ma’am” (presuming you do not object on the grounds that you are not really a grown-up), or even “Oliver’s mother.”

But “Mom” is indeed cheeky. Miss Manners’ dear mother’s response to such impudence was a gentle, “But surely if I were your mother, I would remember you.”

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I are hosting a party for 40 people at a local restaurant in honor of my birthday. We will serve wine with the meal and champagne with dessert, but our budget precludes offering cocktails. What is the etiquette regarding cash bars? Would it be tacky to include a cash bar?

Gentle Reader: Yes. You may be sure that guests who are desperate for a drink will find their way to a bar on their own.

Dear Miss Manners: A neighbor who is a dear, helpful man helps cut down trees and even occasionally cuts the lawn, but ... he has the habit of coming over during dinner. We offer him food, but he does not want to eat with us.

Is it rude to continue eating in front of him, or do we let the food get cold and reheat it after he has left? He just comes to chat, but at an inconvenient time.

Gentle Reader: Explain that you were just eating dinner, invite him in, and ask him to sit down with you at an empty place at the table.

Miss Manners is not suggesting force-feeding your inconvenient guest, only maneuvering him into a position in which you and your family will be free to continue eating while the food is hot. If he refuses to sit down, say how sorry you are that he is unable to stay and how much you look forward to seeing him again.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a 13-year-old boy, and I’m bisexual. I don’t know how to tell my parents, although I think they might think that I’m gay (because of how I act and my obsession with nail polish). But I’m still very nervous to tell them.

I feel like if I do come out, they would accept it, but the topic is very awkward when I’m talking about it with my siblings. I already told my friends, but how should I tell my parents, family members and my parents’ friends?

Gentle Reader: Many a child has learned the effectiveness of scaring parents into thinking their impending news is going to be much more drastic than it is: “I’m pregnant! Just kidding, I failed biology.”

While there might be a temptation to oversell in the name of lessening the impact, Miss Manners cautions you against such theatrics. Tell your family members privately and simply, without apology or forecasting a negative response. Politely and patiently answer their questions and correct misconceptions, doing your best not to betray any annoyance.

And if all else fails? Skywriting.

Dear Miss Manners: I work as a property manager and I speak on the phone with dozens of people every day: tenants, prospective tenants, vendors and other employees of the company I work for.

It has been bothering me lately when people I am on the phone with will not hang up without a proper valediction. Before hanging up, some will just say “OK” or “thanks.”

Our regional accountant does that to me, and I feel it is rude. Sometimes prospects who called to ask questions about the property will just hang up when I am in the middle of talking.

The last time this happened, someone asked me how much the apartment rates were. I assume they hung up because the rates was too pricey for them, but I would have thought the polite way to respond would have been “Oh, that’s over my budget, but thank you for the information” followed by a “goodbye.”

I’ve been getting so fed up with this behavior from multiple people lately that I’ve considered calling back the people who hang up on me to say something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry, I think something happened to the phones, as I was talking and suddenly the phone line cut off.”

Is this just the new norm to end phone conversations, and I’m just being petty? Or do I have a real reason to be miffed?

Gentle Reader: You are justified in your miff-dom, and Miss Manners finds your proposed solution to be a polite and likely effective one. But it is also within the parameters of your job to talk to co-workers directly about their rudeness, particularly if they represent the company. “Isn’t it awful how customers just abruptly hang up on us? We should lead by example on this, and not do the same” would give them the benefit of the doubt, without placing any direct blame.

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, 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.

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