DEAR MISS MANNERS: In both business and personal dealings, it is often the case that emails are received containing typographical errors. In the days before email, one might ignore or even correct these incoming mistakes in a paraphrase (“In your letter of the 4th you asked about …”) but with email, it is common to have the original email attached at the end of your own.
When the spellchecker goes over your outgoing email, it flags and offers opportunities to correct the typos in both your response and the original email. How is this best handled?
GENTLE READER: With restraint. Technology may have made it easier to correct the mistakes of friends or business associates, but Miss Manners notices it has done nothing to make such behavior more endearing.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I find it extremely annoying to be separated from my spouse at the dinner table at my mother’s house. This seems like an old tradition.
We like to touch and talk and do not talk about the kids, the dog or work, but we feel isolated and controlled when told where to sit. I would never dream of telling a guest where to sit.
Isn’t the job of the hostess to make sure the guest is comfortable? What do you think? She knows we don’t like it but does it on purpose.
GENTLE READER: What about the discomfort you cause those who do not want to watch you and your husband touching each other? And do the others at the table like it when you ignore the opportunity to be with them in favor of someone you see every day?
Of course it is the job of the hostess to tell everyone where to sit, in the interest of promoting general sociability. You have provided Miss Manners with an illustration of why this is necessary.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I come from a family in which the women tend to be overweight. In my teens, I was following in my relatives’ footsteps; to be blunt, I was fat.
However, when I was 16, I went on an eight-month diet, lost all the extra weight, and have kept it off ever since, via nothing more strenuous than portion control and some daily exercise — which means brisk walking, not expensive gym visits. I love to cook and eat what I like. I just don’t eat too much of it.
I am now 52. As I’ve aged, I’ve been asked more frequently, “How do you stay so slim?” I answer honestly: “Well, I don’t eat too much, and I try to get some exercise every day.”
I have been told that I am being rude. The woman who said this explained that the question, “How do you stay so slim?” doesn’t require a real answer; it is merely a compliment. If I answer truthfully, I am implying that the questioner does eat too much and doesn’t get exercise.
Fair enough, I suppose. However, according to my accuser, I am supposed to respond, “Just lucky, I guess,” or “It’s genetic.”
Miss Manners, I am not going to claim that I was blessed by the weight gods when I wasn’t, and I feel that I’m not telling anyone anything she doesn’t already know: The way to avoid weight gain is not to eat too much and to get some exercise. However, if you agree that I am being rude, I'll avoid this answer. But could you suggest what I might say instead without actually lying?
GENTLE READER: There are many conventional questions of the “How are you?” variety for which an “honest” answer is neither expected nor welcome. Given how alarmingly common the weight question has become, Miss Manners can understand why your acquaintance thinks it has fallen into this category.
This does not, however, lessen the fact that the question itself is, if asked casually or of a stranger, not complimentary, but rude. Compliments take the form, “You look wonderful” — and then only in situations and with people about whom it is acceptable to notice personal attributes. While you are under no obligation to answer the question, you cannot justly be called rude for doing so.
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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