Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Man’s lunchtime manners leave a bad taste in co-workers’ mouths

Q: I work in a small department in a medium-sized hospital. My problem and that of the other workers in our department concerns a fellow employee whose table manners are deplorable, not to mention unhealthy in the hospital environment in which we work.

When we eat lunch together, he will pick his teeth with a plastic fork, use his napkin as a handkerchief or loudly clear his throat, all without excusing himself from the table where we are all eating. Today, he helped himself to my lunch using his fingers to tear off a piece of meat without asking permission. We were all horrified.

Please, tell us how to politely inform him of his terrible manners without hurting his feelings. Besides showing a lack of etiquette, his table manners are unsanitary, especially in a hospital setting.

A: His manners are unsanitary in a non-hospital setting as well, which leads Miss Manners to wonder why you choose to continue to eat lunch with him.

Ending joint lunches may be a sacrifice, but it avoids the rudeness of correcting someone else’s manners. If your co-worker notices the change and asks, it may then be possible to explain that you have a prejudice from childhood of not sharing your lunch, but you did not want to give offense.

Q: Our son and his fiancee are planning a wedding in her hometown. It will be an out-of-town wedding for all of our side of the family and friends and many of the bride’s friends. With hopes of getting a sense in advance (for accommodations and other planning purposes) of how many guests will make the long trip, would it be acceptable to include on the save-the-date notices a line of “Advance RSVPs Welcomed and Appreciated” along with the wedding website address?

I feel that without the RSVP prompt, most guests will just wait for the formal invitation, which will come far too late to reserve rooms and make other important arrangements.

A: While there is a logic to getting answers sooner, Miss Manners fears that it breaks down when asking someone to respond to an invitation that has not actually been extended. She has no objection, however, to simply sending the invitation earlier.

Q: My father offered one of my root beers to a guest of my aunt’s. Was he right?

Or should he not have offered my stuff since I had nothing to do with the guest? Please help me with this so I can stop being angry when he does this.

A: It is time to have a talk with your father, now that he is of an age where he can understand the consequences of his actions. You must be the adult. And adults do not begrudge using available supplies to offer hospitality to guests.

Miss Manners suggests you explain to him that just as he taught you to respect his feelings and his things, he owes you the same courtesy. You would be happy to share your root beer with your aunt’s friend, but he should have asked you first.

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,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.