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Stop rude comments on the spot

Dear Miss Manners: Is there a polite way to stop prying, rude comments from acquaintances regarding a recent, painful divorce? I need a comment that I can memorize that will immediately stop the painful prying and extricate me from further conversation on the subject, during any occasion, as these seem to occur and take me by painful surprise every time.

Gentle Reader: A gentleman of Miss Manners' acquaintance does a little dialogue when he suspects that his infant daughter might be in serious need of a diaper change.

"Is there something you should tell me?" he asks her.

Then, because she is not yet talking, he answers for her in a sweet little voice: "I'd rather not say."

Considering the variety of nosy questions people feel free to ask these days, the phrase will no doubt be of use to her in future years, and Miss Manners recommends it to you now.


Asking price is OK

Dear Miss Manners: When my husband and I went out to dinner at a moderately priced restaurant with another couple, it was a bit of a treat for all of us to be out together on a weeknight as both of our families have new babies. We budgeted for this dinner accordingly. However, I was a bit shocked when my husband bluntly asked for the price of the special after the waitress had finished her introduction. Granted, in many places, the wait staff includes the price in the initial explanation, so there's no guesswork. But, while I appreciate the frugal sentiment behind my husband's query, I wasn't sure if it was polite to bring this up in front of our dining companions. Which is correct -- for the waiter to offer the prices up front, or barring that, for the patron to ask?

Gentle Reader: Indeed, it would be fairer for the waiter to state the price, as is done in some restaurants. But if this is not done, of course your husband should ask the price.


Timing is everything

Dear Miss Manners: We are having a surprise 50th birthday party for my mother. We would like to do just appetizers and bite-size desserts. The party starts at 7 p.m. Is this OK, or should we serve a buffet-style dinner?

Gentle Reader: What you have proposed serving is the menu for a tea party. Serve it at 7 and your guests will think it paltry. Serve it at 4 and Miss Manners assures you that they will think it lavish.


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