Q: A co-worker invited me to her home for a potluck dinner and a pay-per-view fight. I’ve never been interested in fighting, but I happily engaged with the hosts and other guests before and after the fight.
During the fight itself, I sat quietly on a lounge chair and read a book on my e-reader. I’m not sure whether anyone noticed, or if anyone else was engaged in anything beyond eating and spectating.
My husband says it was rude to read during the fight. I say that I was sitting in the back using a non-lighted screen (so screen brightness wouldn’t have distracted others) and so therefore my behavior was fine. What do you think?
A: That your husband was correct. Whether or not you were caught, Miss Manners assures you that pulling out your own entertainment communicates to your hosts that you find theirs boring.
If you were invited to dinner and found the conversation not to your liking, would you do the same? You were invited to watch the fight and, as you accepted, it would have been polite at least to make the pretense of being interested in it. Or you could have found other ways to occupy yourself, perhaps freeing the hosts to watch by asking to help replenish drinks and snacks. The effect should be of looking after other people’s entertainment, not exclusively your own.
Q: I realize there are numerous ways to communicate besides personal phone calls, email, or “snail mail.”
What are your thoughts on sending a text message as a “thank you” for a holiday gift even though the sender does not necessarily know whether the recipient actually uses text messaging?
I am not a young person, and I do not use text messages to communicate. In fact, I am recently retired (a fact the sender does know). This year, in response to a gift sent to a family, I heard nothing for quite awhile until one day my cellphone made a “funny” noise. After poking around with it, I discovered that there was, in fact, a text message that read something like … “Thank you for the package.” It was not signed and did not describe what was in the package.
Since I had sent several such “packages,” it took me a while to realize who sent the text (process of elimination: I heard from all others by phone or snail mail).
Can you enlighten me on the etiquette of this type of thank-you “note”?
A: You hardly require Miss Manners to tell you how thoughtless and perfunctory this form of thanks was.
Even among regular texters, that is much too informal a means of conveying thanks. And to refer to a present merely as a “package” would be insulting even if handwritten on linen paper.
Perhaps she can enlighten you about the subtext. Her interpretation of that is that these people are far too busy to bother with receiving presents.
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.