Dear Miss Manners: As an apartment dweller, I frequently ride the elevator with other residents. When other tenants enter behind me, I typically ask and push the buttons for them – but one woman barked her floor number at me the moment we entered the elevator, without a “please” or a “thank you.”
I was stunned by her rudeness and pushed the button reluctantly, but can you recommend a better way to handle this situation? I will likely run into her again, and I would prefer not to feel like an elevator attendant in my own building.
Gentle Reader: Nevertheless, Miss Manners advises you to act like one. If you push the requested button, but, as your fellow tenant is exiting, say, “Ladies’ lingerie, better dresses and household goods,” she is not likely to repeat her behavior.
Woe of destination wedding invitation
Dear Miss Manners: How do I decline the invitation to a good friend’s son’s destination wedding? Cost is a big factor, but I know she will be offended.
Gentle Reader: Don’t count on it. Sometimes people plan weddings that require major investments from their guests exactly in order to keep down the number of attendees.
However, Miss Manners realizes that there are even more people who believe their family weddings to be of such momentous importance as to be worth any sacrifice on the part of others.
What these apparently opposing attitudes have in common is the way they regard the guests: as supernumeraries who may or may not be desirable to complete the spectacle, but who should be eager to serve at any cost. Declining an invitation does not require an excuse; indeed, offering one can be dangerous. You would risk bringing on the rudeness of being told something along the lines of “What do you mean you can’t afford it? You take your family to the beach every summer, don’t you? Isn’t this more important?”
The way to show your goodwill would be to accompany your response that declines the invitation with a warm letter of good wishes and regret that you cannot attend. Sending a wedding present, although not strictly obligatory, would be gracious. So would a post-wedding show of interest, even if it involves having to watch the wedding video.
If, after all that, your good friend still maintains that the wedding was a command performance for which your own considerations should have been swept aside – well, you may have to face the fact that she is not that good a friend.
Boyfriend’s long-ago ex retakes name
Dear Miss Manners: My boyfriend of five-plus years has an ex-wife of approximately 18 years who took back his last name. She had left him for another man and remarried soon after their divorce. Now she is divorced again, and I found it interesting that she took back her first husband’s name and did not revert back to her maiden name. What is your thought on this matter?
Gentle Reader: First thought: Surely the lady can call herself what she likes.
But as you asked Miss Manners to think about it, her guess is that this is the surname that she had longest in her adult life, perhaps shared with any children of that marriage, perhaps used in her work. What does it matter to you?
Driving rude strangers to memorial
Dear Miss Manners: What is the etiquette governing the offering and acceptance of a “lift” to an event?
I attended the memorial service of a friend. Wanting to help out, I agreed to drive another couple, strangers to me. The drive was uneventful. However, early into the memorial, my passengers began to inform me that “we’re ready to go now.”
I wasn’t, but with the fourth “reminder,” I gave in and away we went, missing what I later learned were some very kind and moving tributes honoring our deceased friend.
What would have been the proper way to handle this, short of saying, “Call a taxi”?
Gentle Reader: Offering to call a taxi for them.
Miss Manners is sorry that you felt pressured to alter the implicit terms of the favor you did, and assures you that your generosity did not render you a car for hire.
Considering the nerve that these people showed, she is confident that they would simply have bullied someone else into doing their bidding.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.