Share this article

print logo

Finesse nosy strangers with thank-you and then move on

Dear Miss Manners: I fell and hit my head, which left a large bruise (black eye and large scar) on one side of my face. Every time I go out in public, someone asks me what I did to my face. Most of the questioners are total strangers, e.g., store clerks and fellow bus riders.

I usually get mad and tell them to mind their own business. Is there any polite but firm way to let these people know they’re out of line? I understand friends asking, but why does a visible injury make me exhibit A?

Gentle Reader: Snarling at people to mind their own business – however justified by their nosiness – would be a good way to convince people that your injuries were the result of your own pugnaciousness.

Oddly enough, claiming that, with a cheerful “You should see the others – and there were five of them,” would have the opposite effect.

However, Miss Manners does not require you to engage with strangers. A quick dismissal would be, “Thank you, I’m fine,” as if they were good citizens inquiring only to know if you needed help.

Wear concealed watch

Dear Miss Manners: Is it OK for the bride to wear an elegant watch to her wedding reception?

Gentle Reader: Does she have an important appointment after the wedding that she is worried about missing?

Watches, however snazzy, are not properly worn with formal clothes or on social occasions, exactly because they imply a need to keep track of the time spent there before moving on to the next item on the schedule. If this is the case, Miss Manners would advise the lady to wear a concealed watch and to consult it discreetly.

Paying for gala dinner

Dear Miss Manners: I was put off by an invitation to a cousin’s 70th birthday party sent by her two daughters for the reason you have long pointed out – we were invited to come and celebrate, but had to pay for dinner. I told several members of the extended family how this was a breach of etiquette and did not attend the party but sent a card.

In the meantime, my mother completely recovered from a serious illness, and so I came upon the idea that my three siblings and our partners would take Mom out for a celebratory dinner where each couple would pay for their own dinner – as is usual for us. Then I decided to ask a large number of cousins if they would like to join the original eight of us at the restaurant dinner to help celebrate their beloved aunt’s recovery. This would be a no-host affair.

Am I being a hypocrite here, as some in the family think? Or are the two celebrations, as I think, not comparable? There is still time for me (and perhaps my siblings) to pick up the entire tab if you deem etiquette requires it.

Gentle Reader: Please do. Or explain to Miss Manners what the difference is between your cousins (who were not party to the cooperative agreement with your siblings) asking you to pay for a celebratory family dinner, and your asking your cousins to pay for a celebratory family dinner. Other than that you would have had to pay in the former case, but would have collected in the latter case.

Send questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.