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Don’t take your etiquette cues from TV

Dear Miss Manners: While watching certain “judge” TV shows, I’ve noticed that when a plaintiff or defendant is given a tissue, there is NEVER a “thank you” offered to the giver.

It leads me to wonder: Is NOT thanking a person for this small favor considered somehow improper? Please help, as I am indeed befuddled.

Gentle Reader: And as you will continue to be, if you look to TV for demonstrations of proper manners.

Miss Manners does not intend this as a simple sneer at the ignorance of etiquette that sprinkles so much drama –not just television, but film, theater and opera – with misleading cues. That is sadly the fact, but she can rant about that another time.

Even well-done scripted shows should not be taken as exemplifying proper behavior. A function of etiquette in real life is to keep us from being at one another’s throats. But what would drama be without conflict? And this especially applies to courtroom drama, which can match – and exceed – real courtrooms in emotional tension. The crier on TV may be too distraught to observe niceties, or even generally rude.

Life is different. Should you find yourself breaking down in court, do, please, thank the judge or other official who hands you a tissue.

Stop reading wife’s email

Dear Miss Manners: There is an email discussion group in our community that my wife is a member of. She and I each have our own desk with our own computer sitting on it. At her request, I always turn on my wife’s computer in the morning before she gets up.

I’ve been reading my wife’s email on her computer at her desk after I turn it on to scan the group message subject lines and see if there is anything interesting enough to read. My wife got up early one morning and saw me doing this. She didn’t know I had a habit of reading her emails in the morning.

She has gotten angry with me and told me to stop reading her email and feels I’ve crossed the line and invaded her privacy. I feel that I’m not invading her privacy, because the only emails I look at are from the community discussion group. Am I off base?

Gentle Reader: Matrimony is no excuse for peeking into someone else’s mail, Miss Manners believes – as does your wife. So please stop.

Wear the ring

Dear Miss Manners: My fiance passed away a few days ago. Should I remove my engagement ring immediately? Or wait some period of time?

His family has arranged a large service and celebration of life to be held in two months. Should I wear the ring on that occasion?

Gentle Reader: There is a cadre of busybodies who pose as etiquette experts, telling the bereaved that they are no longer entitled to wear their rings. Besides being cruel, this is inaccurate. Miss Manners reminds you that the ring is yours, to wear whenever you wish.