Q: My friend and I arrived about 20 minutes early for a movie and were chatting quietly during the (advertising-heavy) digital pre-show. About five minutes later, an older couple came in and sat in front of us, and about five minutes after that, the man turned around and admonished us to be quiet.
We complied, but I was startled, as I thought it was acceptable to talk until the trailers began. Is there now an expectation of silence for the half-hour presentation before the trailers?
A: There is not: A theater is not a library. But Miss Manners suggests that rather than attempting to school an elderly couple, you apologize: “I’m so sorry. We thought the show had not yet begun. We’ll try to keep our voices down during the advertisements.”
Q: My husband and I made the decision years ago to be low-tech. We are raising our children without cable TV, MP3 players or fancy smartphones or tablets because we want our children to be able to entertain themselves with their imaginations and because we don’t want to have bickering over screen time.
I have an old cellphone, not a smartphone. Many times over the last year, as I have pulled it out, people (relatives, friends, colleagues, receptionists at the dentist, just to name a few) have told me that I need to buy a new phone.
What is it about technology that makes people feel justified in telling others, even ones they don’t know, that their possessions are not up to snuff?
I think these same people would find it very rude if I told them that their shoes/purse/car looked shabby, and they should go buy something smarter-looking.
A: They would indeed, and they would be right.
Miss Manners fears that the only difference in the case of technology is that the targets of such insults are often vulnerable, afraid of being themselves considered ready for the dust heap. You are quite right to interpret this as unwarranted busybody-ness.
Q: My sister and I are having a small dinner with four friends for our birthday. Some of our uninvited friends have asked us when our party is. We don’t want to hurt their feelings, so how should we respond?
A: The fact that you refer to “our birthday” and that your plans involve a dinner party lead Miss Manners to infer that you are one of a pair of adult twins.
If this is so, adults are not properly expected to throw themselves regular birthday parties. You need therefore say no more than, “We are not planning a big party this year.”
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.