Perspective | Miss Manners: Umbrella gesture misunderstood — or not

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We walked on without another word until parting ways at the next intersection. Naturally, she never thanked me.

Miss Manners can hardly disapprove of affording shelter from the rain to any person, pretty or otherwise, who appears to be in need. Should I have withdrawn the umbrella after her comment, while adding, “Handsome is as handsome does”?

Romantic comedies — and predatory men — have all but ruined the chivalrous gesture. However, you need not interpret your umbrella companion’s remark as rude. Is it possible that she thought she had suddenly found herself in a “meet cute” and was attempting to be charming in a way that complimented herself, rather than denigrating you?

However, if your suspicions are correct, it is worth noting that we are currently in a climate in which male motivations have proven suspect, particularly when it comes to strangers approaching females unsolicited.

That does not justify retaliating as though your character had been attacked. A reasonable response might have been, “Oh! Well, I was really just trying to protect a fellow human being from the rain …” letting it trail off, lest you travel down an unwinnable path toward rating her relative beauty.

Dear Miss Manners: My name is Elena, and I am typing this question on behalf of Sasha (my daughter/employer). I will pass on any reply.

Dear Miss Manners: What is the proper way to eat crackers? I want to know, because my brother is an extremely messy cracker eater, and I want to set a good example for him. And this is really difficult, because I am only 6 years old and he is 2, and he eats plums very badly, and also peaches, and any type of fruit.

Thank you for writing the big book called “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior,” because I’ve been reading it.

All of the foods you describe are indeed difficult to eat neatly, each for their own reason. Crackers make crumbs, and peaches and plums often create unsightly juice-covered chins.

For the latter, Miss Manners recommends that you and your brother politely ask your mother/employee to cut the fruit into wedges, rather than attempt to bite into it like an apple. As for crackers, they are best eaten in small bites and not by the fistful, with a napkin or plate placed underneath to catch any falling debris.

Miss Manners would like to add that, having admirably fulfilled her duties as messenger and food preparer, your mother surely deserves a raise. Although having such a conscientious and well-read daughter is presumably reward enough.



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