DEAR MISS MANNERS: A co-worker frequently brings sweet treats into the office to share with everyone. This seems like a generous thing to do.
But she then spends the rest of the day telling everyone who partakes how she has been “good” by not eating the treat herself.
This tends to make those of us partaking in the treat feel guilty, which may or may not be her intention. As a side note, she is quite thin, while most of us could lose a few pounds.
Is there an appropriate rejoinder to her statements about being “good” without being rude, or am I just being overly sensitive?
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GENTLE READER: As you are comparing your weight to that of this co-worker, Miss Manners fears that this, rather than generosity, might indeed have been the intention. And it worked.
If you feel that a rejoinder is necessary in addition to your thanks, you might say, “Well, you should feel good about making others feel happy.”
The reply is unlikely to be, “No, I feel good because I don’t give in to temptation the way I made you do, and that’s why I’m thinner than you, nyah, nyah.”
Still hoping for conversation
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whether dining out with friends and their families, or joining in a congregational dinner where you might be dining with folks you are just meeting, many parents allow their children to be on their hand-held devices during the entire dinner, while my grade-school son tries to make conversation with the kids — to his credit, but mostly to no avail.
Granted, some of these are teenagers. Is there anything polite you think that we can say when this happens again to change the dynamic in the moment? Maybe there is a polite request to make in advance. What about asking if we can hold off on the electronic devices until after dessert?
GENTLE READER: You did such a good job of teaching your own child to make conversation instead of bitcoin deals that it is a shame that you cannot politely issue instructions to other people’s children.
It is also a shame that he gets stuck with mannerless teenagers (whom Miss Manners refuses to grant an age-based excuse). You might try asking the hosts loudly where they want the young people to park their devices.
If this fails to encourage other parents to direct their children to do as your son will do, you should draw him into the adult conversation. (This is presuming that there is electronic-less adult conversation and that these dinner parties are not like study halls.)
That will serve him well in future situations such as college interviews. And if it annoys the other parents to listen to his opinions or have him listen to theirs, then perhaps they will think more about instructing their own children on how to behave in company.
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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