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Miss Manners: Address Roommate’s Bathroom-Hogging the Old-Fashioned Way


Friday, May 25, 2018

Dear Miss Manners: I’ve got this roommate who goes into the restroom in the morning — not a problem. But he goes in, and for 30 minutes to an hour, he does not make a sound. Sometimes he eats ice cream. Reads books. Does whatever weird things.

So he’s literally wasted an hour in there, and he’s now going to “interact” with the shower — he sometimes runs it for no reason, and other times does use it. But this adds another 30 minutes.

Is this too long, in terms of etiquette? How should I confront him about this issue?

Gentle Reader: Oddly enough, etiquette never got around to issuing a bathroom timetable. Nor does it take an interest, as you so keenly do, in the activities that go on inside.

Therefore the only possible question for Miss Manners to consider is what you should do when you need to use the bathroom and your roommate shows no signs of relinquishing it.

Well, you bang on the door and say, “I really need to get in there.” And you find a less urgent time to work out a schedule that will enable him to enjoy himself without making life difficult for you.

Dear Miss Manners: I have inherited some lovely jewelry. I would very much like to wear it, both for its beauty and for its association with the dear relative who left it to me. However, it seems distasteful to wear it so soon after her death, especially the pieces that she wore often and that will remind others of her.

Is there an appropriate mourning period after which it will be acceptable to wear it? Or do I need to have it redesigned so it will not be recognizable? That would make me sad, since I cherish her memory and would like to continue to be reminded of her through the jewelry she wore. But I don’t want to distress others or look like a grave robber.

Gentle Reader: You will look, Miss Manners assures you, as if you are honoring your relative by cherishing the jewelry she wanted you to enjoy.

Dear Miss Manners: When is it appropriate to wear a bow tie?

Gentle Reader: With evening clothes, or when you are teaching freshman chemistry.

Dear Miss Manners: I received a “save the date” for the wedding for a family friend, a young man I used to baby-sit and have watched grow up. Unfortunately, I will be out of the country on the big day.

Should I send my regrets now, to save them the time and trouble of sending a formal invitation, or wait for that formality?

Gentle Reader: As the “save the date” card is not, technically, an invitation, you are not, strictly speaking, required to respond. Before she is deluged with letters by irate brides, Miss Manners adds that it would nevertheless be both courteous and considerate to express your regret.

Readers have alerted Miss Manners to an inexplicable practice of subsequently neglecting to invite all the recipients of “save the date” cards, but she trusts you know your friends well enough to be confident they will not respond by telling you who will be taking your seat or how much money you have saved them.

Dear Miss Manners: I am writing to learn if there are better forms of greetings for more somber occasions. For example, I am a veteran with 23 years of service, and I am uncomfortable with the traditional “Happy Memorial Day” greeting that the news and entertainment media have foisted upon the public.

However, I do not know what is actually acceptable to use in its place.

Gentle Reader: Reasonable people can disagree about whether it was the media who crafted vapidly happy greetings for every occasion.

It seems to Miss Manners that it is a byproduct of the American tendency to commercialize every holiday: an activity at odds with a somber (or sober) demeanor. The horde of candy bunnies that infest grocery stores around Easter would support the latter conclusion, as one would expect a certain amount of dignity to be associated with that holiday, irrespective of the ultimate conclusion.

What, then, to say? As the phrase is intended as a greeting, the most neutral option would be “Memorial Day greetings.” But as you are not selling anything, it is not necessary to name the holiday every time you open your mouth.

Dear Miss Manners: When my husband accepted an award for being an outstanding football coach, he received a standing ovation at the reception.

I am so proud of him that when everyone stood, I, moved with emotion, jumped up and applauded as well. Then I suddenly felt foolish, and wondered if it was inappropriate for me to give my own husband a standing ovation.

However, had I remained seated, I think I would have felt awkward as well. What is the correct response when a close family member receives a standing ovation?

Gentle Reader: To be overwhelmed with emotion and excitement and stand up with the others. No decent person could fault you for being overcome by spousal pride. Staying seated in the face of everyone else’s enthusiasm, Miss Manners notes, would make a stronger statement.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a woman of a certain age, the mother of a millennial child, and I am confused about texting etiquette.

Can one send a text at any time of day or night, as one can with emails? Must one always type out long forms for every word on the excruciatingly small keys, or are abbreviations acceptable? When referencing a book title, are ALL CAPS acceptable when underlining is not available?

I first became familiar with this form of communication when my daughter was in high school. Although I frown on the abbreviations commonly used in texts, I would use them for time’s sake or to keep me from going mad trying to touch the correct tiny key, and not the one crammed up beside it.

Even with the high school years behind us, writing “How r u?” remains temptingly convenient, but do you think it is too silly for adults to use?

Gentle Reader: Yup.

It is with reluctance that Miss Manners acknowledges that tiny keys require tiny compromises. The idea is to maintain your dignity while embarrassing neither your millennial nor your English teachers.

Capital letters are permissible in place of italics, if you promise not to use them for regular correspondence, where it just comes across as yelling. Abbreviations are allowed in limited, identifiable quantities.

Good luck keeping up with acronyms, which have crept into the regular conversation of the young. (Do they not recognize that it usually requires the same amount of vocal effort as full words?)

And although many people silence their phones at night, others keep them on “for emergencies,” so reasonable texting hours are preferred — to avoid inciting one.

Dear Miss Manners: I am currently seeing my ex-husband, and we are at a loss as to how to introduce each other to new people.

Gentle Reader: As you and your ex-husband have agreed to make a fresh start, the same courtesy should be extended to the people you meet. Miss Manners leaves up to you whether that means introducing him by name or as your suitor or fiance.

If anyone knows enough to ask if you were not once married, you can then acknowledge that you were. But when doing so, it would be best not to look perplexed, as if the fact had somehow slipped your mind.

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.