DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have naturally red cheeks, often referred to as rosacea. I also tend to blush easily. I am at a loss for an appropriate response when friends and acquaintances ask, “Why is your face so red?”
GENTLE READER: Try looking down at the ground and saying, “You’re embarrassing me.”
Notice that you will not necessarily have claimed to be blushing if you are not. You could say this in response to any nosy question. But it is a particularly apt way of dealing with this particular unfortunate remark.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am left-handed and want to ask about seating arrangements. I have two problems.
First, I am a student, so perhaps you can answer this for people in college. In a seminar class, we use the small desks with tops that attach to the right side of the chair. There are usually a few “left-handed” desks like this with the writing surface on the opposite side.
However, in my last class, I realized I’d taken the only such desk because I’d arrived early. Is it proper for me to stay in that seat, or should I offer to alternate seats with the other left-handed students on different class days, since it’s difficult to take notes when the writing surface is on the “wrong” side?
Also, since there are no people with disabilities in the class, would it be wrong for one of us to take the classroom’s one table designated for that use until (and if) the classroom gets more left-handed desks?
Second, if I am at a meal with people, I try my best not to bump into others when eating. However, it is difficult when seated next to a right-handed person, especially when space is tight, and I am clumsy.
Is it all right for me to request, if possible, that I be seated on the left end of the table or some other seat that will not lead to bumping elbows? I have excellent manners otherwise, and these situations are embarrassing.
GENTLE READER: They shouldn’t be. Intention and thoughtfulness count for a lot in etiquette, and clearly you are doing your best as a left-handed person in a world built for right-handed ones.
If you get to class first, take the desk. It would be gracious to alternate with the other left-handed students and to work out a plan. Further, Miss Manners sees nothing wrong with taking advantage of whatever unused furniture in the classroom is useful to you, as long as you relinquish it immediately to anyone who is in greater need.
Second, if it is more comfortable for both you and your dinner companions, by all means request to sit on the left end of the dinner table. (However, if you are attending a formal seated dinner with name cards, please make this request well in advance.) As long as your attitude is not belligerent and defensive, as clearly yours is not, you should certainly feel at ease about politely asserting your rights. Or lefts, as the case may be.
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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