Q: I was at a party last weekend where there were drinks, a buffet, music and conversation. It was all very pleasant until a few people (not the host or hostess) decided to turn off the music and play videos for the crowd on their phones instead.
The party suddenly became a quiet mass of people huddled around a smartphone. And folks in the other parts of the house could no longer hear the music that had been playing.
The hostess was very gracious but visibly annoyed. I find that this sort of behavior has become more and more common at parties, and I wonder, what is a host or hostess to do when their party is commandeered by funny cat videos?
A: What, indeed?
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Miss Manners commends this particular hostess for her patience. If she had been feeling even more generous, she could have offered to display the cat videos on her television or computer for all to see. This would have the effect of making the activity more communal, while drawing attention to the fact that only a few were participating.
But more likely, the difficulty of its technical execution would be time-consuming enough that everyone would get bored with it and resume more social activity.
Q: We’re going to the wedding of an old friend’s son, and sent the couple a lovely, generous gift from their registry. The thank-you note we received is generic, and my wife is insulted.
Should this be a teaching moment for the bride, and if so, how should we handle this? Or do we just accept that some people don’t have a clue?
A: It is with a heavily trodden-upon heart that Miss Manners informs you that getting a thank-you letter at all is scores above what most guests receive.
Registries are generic to begin with – after all, you are generously ticking off items on a shopping list – so it is not surprising that their thank-you notes reflect that.
One day, everyone will see the joy of a registry-less world, where presents are voluntary, thoughtful and unsolicited. Then, thank-you letters that express genuine gratitude for true thoughtfulness will follow.
In the meantime, Miss Manners would not recommend that you chastise this couple for at least acknowledging the unpleasant arrangement.
Q: I was eating lunch at a public counter yesterday when an elderly lady (a stranger) came up to me, put her arm around me and started talking. I was so startled that I just responded, “Please don’t touch me!” in a loud voice.
She backed up and murmured something, and her male companion said something under his breath. Was there a better way for me to have responded?
A: Probably. Miss Manners is given to a more genteel squeal in such instances.
But as this was a stranger, and you didn’t know her intentions or her state of mental health, your reaction was acceptable and the message the same: Do not startle a stranger if you do not want a startled reaction.
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.