Advice Columns

Where’s the line between sharing and bragging?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My Facebook friends have wonderful lives, and I am glad for them. They have the best boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. (“Yeah, be jealous,” demands one young lady about the man in her life.) Their sons and daughters win academic and sports awards and are the most thoughtful beings on the planet. They enjoy relaxing/exciting/exotic vacations. They build huge houses and plant lovely gardens. They enjoy laughter and parties with friends and warm and happy holidays with families. Their grandbabies become more and more adorable with each passing week. They are thankful people, my Facebook friends, wanting to express their sense of gratitude for all the good in their lives. As some will put it, they are “blessed.”
How does one know when one has crossed the line between “sharing” with a hundred or two of one’s closest friends and boasting? GENTLE READER:

“Sharing” is a word best used to teach small children to allow other small children access to toys. The activity it now describes teaches the contradictory lesson of It’s All About Me.

It is one thing to share good news with intimates who you know will rejoice for you, and for whom you have reciprocal empathy. Shouting from the housetops, however — especially now that one is so easily able to reach untold numbers from there — is another.

The test Miss Manners suggests applying is what reaction is expected from the recipients of one’s announcements. Not everyone is so frank as the young lady who said, “Yeah, be jealous,” but that seems to be the general motivation.

Put the rude friend in the corner DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister was hostessing a luncheon for 12, and to her dismay, a guest showed up with her own guest, announcing to my sister, “I knew you wouldn’t mind.” There was the table set for 12, which was all it would comfortably accommodate, with the china service for 12 laid out on the best tablecloth. Horribly awkward! I think I’d have been frozen in the doorway, but my sister let them in, despite her shock, and tried to conceal that she was laying a stray extra plate at a hastily added place. To my way of thinking, the guest should have been allowed to feel the full embarrassment of her actions if she was capable of it. Something along the lines of, “Your guest is welcome, but now you are the extra person for whom I have no space.” Please, Miss Manners, what would be the correct thing to do in such circumstances?

The wisest thing to do, whenever someone says, “I knew you wouldn’t mind,” is to run. No good will follow.

Unfortunately, your sister was not in a position to do this, as she was at home with guests. Miss Manners congratulates her for behaving politely, although she deeply sympathizes with your desire to chastise the presumptuous guest.

A compromise that might squeak through as accidental would be to say sweetly to the offender, “I’m sure you won’t mind squeezing in a bit to make room for your friend,” and seating her diagonally with the corner of the table pointed toward her.

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