Q: Is it my imagination, or is it the popular thing these days for some people to start off their hate-filled rants by bashing political correctness AND THEN spewing forth all manner of racism and misogyny and sexism and ageism!
How is one to deal with this venom? I agree with the idea that people should be careful not to use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people. Does having good manners require me to sit quietly and say nothing?
A: No: You should run.
Miss Manners is adding denouncing political correctness to her list of conversational prefaces from which no good ever follows. Others include, “Do you want me to be perfectly honest with you?” and “Would you like some constructive criticism?”
When people announce that they plan to abandon the rules of civilized discourse, they should be taken seriously. The response should be, “Well, if you are in favor of being offensive, I’d rather not hear more.”
Q: Who is responsible for indicating that they want to end a telephone conversation with the other party? I am told by the party involved that I am not listening to the “hints” being given. I am not a mind reader.
A: Then Miss Manners suggests listening for such remarks as:
“It was good to talk to you.”
“We must get together one of these days.”
“Oops, I’d better find out what that noise was.”
And of course, that classic standby, “I think I hear my mother calling me to dinner.”
Q: At an outing, I verbally invited a friend to a Fourth of July party to which I already had invited several other people. She accepted but asked to bring the two teenage sons of her ex-husband, as he was busy that day.
I responded that I did not have enough chairs/space to accommodate three more people. She said then she was going to plan some other activity with the boys.
A week later, she told me that I had behaved in an unacceptable fashion, and she wished to sever contact for the foreseeable future.
Was I completely unreasonable? It was not the nicest thing to do, I realize, but space was really the issue.
A: Isn’t there a more basic issue here? One that Miss Manners fears that you are too diffident to mention?
It is that you are the hostess: It is your party, and you get to set the guest list. And while you may wish to be flexible, you do not have to be defensive about your limits. It is enough to say that you are so sorry not to be able to meet their proposed extras on this occasion, but hope that some other time will present itself. (In this case, that would have been spreading graciousness over your friend’s obvious motive of keeping the teenagers occupied, rather than adding interesting people to your party.)
The proper way for a prospective guest to ask to bring someone is to decline the invitation on the grounds of having to entertain her or his own guest. That gives the host the choice of inviting that person or simply expressing regret that the invitation was declined.
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.