Q: I was invited to a formal engagement party where the young man being honored is still legally married to his first wife. I am uncomfortable with this but have been told I’m being silly. What are your thoughts?
A: That the young man will be even more uncomfortable than yourself if he is equally careless about scheduling his second wedding.
Miss Manners recalls that Hamlet was scandalized by the hasty remarriage of his mother to his uncle. But at least Queen Gertrude’s first husband was dead, even if his ghost was haunting the palace after bedtime.
The law requires second marriages to follow the dissolution of the first marriages. Etiquette agrees that any associated festivities should do so as well.
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Q: The new boss in the finance department where I and several others work will acknowledge only her staff who are in middle management.
Several times she has said “Good morning” or “Good night” to these middle managers while I have been standing right next to them. On a personal level I find this hurtful and rude.
Is this acceptable behavior in the workplace? Even the president of the company says good morning to me.
A: Snubbing a co-worker is rude. Snubbing a subordinate is worse, because of the inequality in the relationship.
But it is also poor management. Miss Manners applauds the president, at least, for being polite, whether he is genuinely interested in the happiness of his employees or merely realizes that being polite is a cheaper way to boost morale than giving out raises.
Q: Due to various health conditions, medications and surgeries, I have fought a lifelong battle with weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. A few days ago, I got onto the elevator at work, followed by two women. One of them gave me the once-over and inquired when my baby was due.
I replied, “Not pregnant; just fat” and exited the elevator. Before the doors closed, I heard the other woman say, “How rude!”
I take exception to this. In my opinion the person who made an incorrect assumption and voiced it to a stranger was more rude than the one who corrected that assumption with a true statement.
What do you think? And if I was rude, what should the answer to that question have been?
A: While etiquette does not generally interest itself in motives, Miss Manners cannot answer without delving into yours and your questioner’s.
The other woman was, without a doubt, presumptuous. It is rude to assess other people’s stomachs. But was it meant to be insulting?
Your description of your response suggests that you wished to do more than set the record straight — you wished to challenge her for her rudeness.
Well, then. Miss Manners understands your impatience. But she can think of more polite, as well as more effective, ways to do so. If you felt up to the acting challenge, an admission, with quivering lip, that you have struggled with weight gain all your life, followed by as hasty an exit as the elevator allowed would have left the offender feeling ashamed, rather than self-righteous.
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.