Q: What is the appropriate manner to point? We have a grandson who points with his middle finger a lot.
A: Well, that’s definitely not it.
Pointing at a person with any finger is rude. Gestures that use your whole hand or a clear verbal description — such as a name — are always preferred. For everything else, Miss Manners recommends, well, the pointing index finger.
Q: Someone I chat with at the gym has told me he’s writing a book. I’ve been out of town for a couple months, and my manners tell me that next time I see him, I should ask about the book.
However, I don’t want to read it; it’s science fiction, a genre I don’t enjoy.
In the past, I’ve had two acquaintances mention that they’d written books. Wanting to be supportive, I’ve bought both books (without a sale being solicited), read them, and felt compelled to say something positive, while I’d have preferred reading something from my own library.
In this age of self-publishing, how do you advise one handle this situation?
A: By not going looking for trouble. While it is kind of you to take an interest in your acquaintances’ work, there is no obligation to read it, especially as no such request is being made.
For this, you should count yourself lucky. Miss Manners advises you to continue being pleasant, but not to go courting resentment — on your part or theirs. And if these acquaintances ever do ask you directly, you may say, “Oh yes, I’ve been meaning to read that” for as long as you may politely continue to do so.
Q: My daughter invited seven friends to join her at a local amusement park for her 13th birthday. Everyone responded, saying that they would be delighted to attend.
On the day of the party, one of the girls arrived at the park with a friend who had not been invited to the party. My daughter graciously told the girl that she could use my son’s ticket since he had unexpectedly woken up with a bad headache, but the whole situation was decidedly uncomfortable.
Why would the parents think it was appropriate to bring an uninvited guest to a “destination” birthday party? How should we have handled this?
It did not actually cost us extra for this extra guest since my son was sick, and she was technically taking his place, if that makes a difference.
A: The parents were wrong, but your daughter, Miss Manners is pleased to say, behaved impeccably.
As the ticket was available and the girl’s friend was not necessarily to blame for the transgression, there was nothing to do but to be gracious.
In order to avoid a repeat offense, however, you would not be remiss in telling the girl’s parents next time you see them, “Isn’t it lucky that my son had a headache?” — with the optional insertion of a long pause here to allow for confusion and inquiry as to why — “Or we would never have been able to accommodate your daughter’s unexpectedly showing up with a friend at the party.”
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.