DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation from a friend of mine to spend the weekend at some property of hers. The caveat: We would be building her a house.
Granted, it is a “tiny house,” and my friend is not the type of person to follow formal etiquette on functions, but this struck me as beyond the pale. I mentioned it offhandedly to my parents on a phone call, and they didn’t see any problem, calling it a “barn-raiser.”
Miss Manners, I feel as though no one should be asked to raise a barn for a woman with a master’s degree.
Who’s right, my parents or me? I do plan on declining, due to some health problems that prevent me from, uh, building a house.
GENTLE READER: When the barn-raiser was a recognized event, in 18th- and 19th-century rural communities, it was understood that the favor would later be returned.
Miss Manners fears that your friend has missed the importance of reciprocity. Perhaps she could limit her invitations to those who, while she was earning her degree, insisted on asking why she did not spend her time on something more practical. They could then enjoy a last laugh at her expense while she benefits from their more practical training.
Buffet line mayhem
DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the buffet line, what do you do when the person in line behind you is reaching in front of you to get food and pushing you along to get you to hurry?
GENTLE READER: Get out of the way.
Miss Manners knows how galling it is to allow the pushy to achieve their objectives. She will grant you a sweeping “After you, Alphonse” gesture as you move. But standing between rude people and their feed could be dangerous.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a woman of appropriate weight for my height, definitely well within the normal range. This has been a consistent state of affairs for literally decades.
It is remarkable how often, upon running into people I have not seen in a while, they choose to comment on how much weight I have lost. The fact is I weigh what I did the last time our paths crossed.
Obviously I find this upsetting, as so many people are evidently running around with memories of a much larger me. My response tends to be, “No, I weigh exactly what I weighed last time I saw you.” – but, for whatever reason, I tend to grow to quite astronomical proportions in people’s memory once they take leave of me.
This is certainly not the best response to a comment I feel never should have been made.
GENTLE READER: You know that your weight has not changed in decades. Are you sure about that of every acquaintance?
Miss Manners suspects not. The people you describe have as little knowledge about your weight history as you do about theirs.
They are being rude, but they are trying, in their annoying way, to compliment you. Otherwise, would you not expect as many to think that you gained weight as that you lost it? Their comments call for a change of subject, rather than an answer.
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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