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Miss Manners: Bottle-feeding a baby attracts unsolicited advice

Dear Miss Manners: I have moved to a new city, where a form of parenting seems to be particularly prevalent. One of my closest friends here just adopted a new baby, and was warned that when bottle-feeding her baby in public, she may be subjected to “well-meaning” strangers approaching her about the benefits of breast-feeding.

This hasn’t happened to her yet, but I thought I’d ask you how to deal with this, as even the idea of it makes me furious.

I think if I were present and that were to happen, my instinct would be to throw my beverage in their face, perhaps with a “well-meaning” comment on the benefits of proper hydration.

Gentle Reader: Although Miss Manners thoroughly deplores the rudeness you describe, she feels that she must risk seeming equally intrusive by offering you another piece of advice about babies.

It is: Never start a street fight while you are holding one.

A dinnertime attack

Dear Miss Manners: When I was invited to a dinner with an acquaintance, I expected a relatively short dinner with light and pleasant conversation, and accepted enthusiastically.

Instead, I was treated to a 2 1/2-hour exposition on how I need to fully reconsider my life and choices. She questioned me severely on such personal topics as my friendships and intimate relationships, my lack of social graces, my overly self-important opinion and my lack of self-knowledge, providing “advice” for each topic.

This included her statement that I do not know how to conduct myself in society, and that my current relationship with a young gentleman is “invalid.”

I attempted to end the conversation several times, but she took this behavior as my not giving her my full attention and respect. I was so taken aback at her questions that I could not find a way to continue the conversation. I would normally reciprocate a question nearly verbatim, but I would not want to ask such rude or personal “questions” myself. I would hate to think that such behavior would ever be appropriate, particularly from someone I do not consider a close friend.

Please let me know if I am incorrect in this thought. I have considered what I ought to have asked in response, but I have not been able to find just the right phrasing.

Gentle Reader: It is not that long since Miss Manners heard from someone who planned just such a dinnertime attack. She doesn’t know which makes her feel worse: that her attempts to head off such a travesty of hospitality failed, or that there are two such people as your acquaintance.

There is, indeed, something you should have said when this tirade began: “Goodbye.”