DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was introduced to a young dandy about my age who had worn his feathered fedora during a church wedding and was now wearing it at the reception.
Presumably I was expected to concur with his being introduced as “the most dapperest man I know” and to immediately compliment his attire.
Do you have a better retort than the one I used: “Gosh, you are so well-dressed. Foolish me, failing to protect my eyes from the blinding rays of that chandelier.”
GENTLE READER: “Most dapperest”? A man wearing a hat indoors seems to Miss Manners to be the most rudest.
There was no need for you to comment at all. Just a weak smile and innocuous comment about the wedding would have sufficed until you were able to make a polite getaway.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I attended the opening performance of a major orchestra. We had excellent seats (the second box in the first balcony) and were seated with five other couples we did not know.
Three of those five couples spoke multiple times during the orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony. I was at a loss about what to do. Whispering during movies is so common now that I know that I’ve lost that battle, but I’m not ready to give up the fight at a performance of one of the finest orchestras in the world.
Would it be appropriate to make a general statement to our box before the performance begins? I’m thinking of something like this: “I’m sure nobody in this box would think of it, but let’s all agree not to whisper to our companions during the performance.”
Or would it be more appropriate to wait for the intermission and speak directly to anyone who has spoken during the first piece?
GENTLE READER: The best defense is a good offense (look at Miss Manners getting all sporty), but that said, the approach you’re considering is just slightly condescending and prissy. Those with rebellious leanings might want to defy you just for the fun of it.
Instead, you might tell a cautionary tale of the aforementioned event in which people were so brazen as to speak during the performance (presuming the current attendants were not among them). This will make your point without directly implicating your new companions.
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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