DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 19-year-old stepdaughter has been invited to a formal dinner dance and asked me to teach her etiquette, so I planned a family dinner using all my fine china, silver, crystal, etc. It was a good opportunity to give some pointers that the children weren’t clear on.
However, a situation came up with her sister that I didn’t know the answer to. She has some physical limitations using one arm, so she has gotten into the habit of using her fingers to tear her meat, since cutting is difficult for her. I felt sure that using her fingers wasn’t appropriate, but didn’t know what other options she might try. What do you suggest?
GENTLE READER: Many people now think that any medical problem, physical or psychological, is a valid excuse for ignoring the customs and expectations of society. Miss Manners is not among them.
However sympathetic society may be, it recoils from such obvious violations of established convention as eating meat with one’s hands. It is all very well to say that it shouldn’t, but it does. And that is even on the part of people who are aware of the problem.
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This leaves the young lady with the choice of broadcasting her difficulty at every shared meal, in the hope that this will draw enough sympathy to counter an adverse reaction (although she can hardly notify everyone at a large gathering), or deciding that she doesn’t care whether others assume that she is merely grossly unmannered.
Miss Manners would think it preferable to avoid eating food she cannot manage when dining out socially, or, at restaurants, requesting that her meat be cut in the kitchen.
Early departure and a bill
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A man I connected with online invited me to meet him at a restaurant bar. I ordered a glass of wine. As the conversation ensued, his comments were racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, materialistic and finally insulting to me and my values.
I stood up and said I was leaving. He said that I should pay for my wine. I said no, because he invited me. I left him with the bill. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: That sticking him with the bill would not be nearly as satisfactory as flinging down money on the table, with the clear intention that you consider the price of ridding yourself of him to be worth it. But then, Miss Manners considers the high-handed insult to have more dignity than the lowly one.
No photos, please
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We’ve been invited to a wedding where the bride wants it “off the grid.” She is planning on having 120 guests and has asked that no one bring a camera or take photos with their cellphones. I’d like to hear your comments.
GENTLE READER: One is, “Well, good for her.” Another is that Miss Manners considers it a shame to have to instruct one’s guests that a wedding ceremony is a solemn rite to which they should be paying quiet attention, and that a wedding reception is a celebration at which they should be socializing.
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.
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