DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can one know if she is talking too much or being talkative? I like to think Im funny and engaging, that I tell a good story and am an entertaining guest and hostess.
By JUDITH MARTIN
However, at Thanksgiving dinner, my husband said I was carrying on a monologue. I thought I was aware enough of being long-winded to cut myself off, but perhaps the champagne (which wasnt cut off) blurred my judgment.
Therefore, would you please advise me how to judge whether Im entertaining people with my stories, or if Im becoming a bore? A good tip on how to engage other guests would also be useful.
Further, if you could include a kind way for my husband to let me know Im going on too long, I would pass that on to him. Have I gone on too long again?
GENTLE READER: No, Miss Manners is still giving you rapt attention. Face to face, you would be able to see the bright gaze she has fixed on you.
But there are indeed ways of gauging your listeners limits. Faces resting gently in plates are a good sign that you have gone on too long, as are downcast eyes, which nowadays probably indicate the presence of an electronic device under the napkin. In social settings, an appreciative audience usually makes encouraging noises and nods, so silence and immobility are also signs.
To re-engage people at that point, halt the story and offer others a turn by saying something vaguely relevant, such as, Everyone must have these embarrassing moments, or And how did you spend your vacation?
Unless you hear a chorus of But wait, what happened to you then? you may consider that you have yielded the floor, and that no one has noticed that your story wasnt finished.
But even without this problem, every couple needs a Meaningful Look. Generally, it is a fixed, unblinking stare, accompanied by an upturning of the mouth intended to disguise its real meaning. And that can be anything from You should probably wind this up to Didnt you tell me that we were going to keep that a secret? to Please, can we go home now before I keel over?
Flipping the script
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is an appropriate response when we invite good friends to our home for dinner, and they reverse the invitation and ask us to come to their home instead?
In some cases, its a holiday and they are expecting family and ask us to join them. Thats nice of them, but its quite awkward to say their grandchildren are insufferable and wed rather spend the day in our own company. Obviously we cant say that we are otherwise engaged, because we obviously arent!
In other cases, the invitation is reversed because our friends enjoy amenities we do not have, such as a hot tub. But since our invitation was extended as an gesture of reciprocity for many evenings already spent in their hot tub, wed really prefer to host this time around.
Im generally acknowledged as a pretty good cook and enjoy cooking immensely, so when the invitation is reversed, I also miss a pleasant day in the kitchen. Is there a gracious way to respond?
GENTLE READER: Declining counter-invitations should be easy, because people whom you invite need not know that you havent already invited other guests. But when you need to insist, Miss Manners suggests, No fair. I asked you first.
© Universal Uclick 12/3
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com, or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.