DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am on the worship committee for my church, and we’ve had online Zoom services since March.
I often notice that during the service, people are eating, texting, getting up and down from their seats, talking to others and doing other varied activities that are suited to a living room but NOT A CHURCH SERVICE.
I find this rude to the people who have invested time and energy into providing the service. We on the committee are creating a “protocol” to share with the congregation to attempt to get them to behave, well, as if they’re at a church service.
Would you offer us suggestions on the wording, please?
GENTLE READER: Please do not think that Miss Manners is deserting you — or propriety — when she asks you to consider why this is happening.
Presumably, these people behaved when they were actually in church, or you would have mentioned it. Now they are in a living room. Or a kitchen. Or a bedroom. However solemn the content, the experience is like watching television. You are probably not expecting them to dress up.
So approach this knowing that they are not being intentionally rude. To persuade them to change, you must explain why:
“While we are unable to be in church, we would still like to maintain our usual decorum. If you must plan to do other things during the service — for example, eating, texting or talking — please turn off your camera and microphone.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have followed always your guidance that I should say “Congratulations” to bridegrooms and “Best wishes” to brides.
However, I was recently in a meeting with a colleague who said she had been recently married. (She brought up the subject to explain that her name was changing.) I said “Best wishes,” but it felt awkward.
My first thought was that the tradition carries a vague sense of condescension based on the fact that she is a woman, and perhaps the tradition is no longer as charming as it once was.
My second thought was that perhaps I shouldn’t even say something as perfunctory as “Best wishes” to someone I know professionally, rather than personally. (I was not, after all, a guest at the wedding.) Can you kindly help me resolve my feeling of being incorrect?
GENTLE READER: First, Miss Manners must thank you for being probably the only person in the world besides herself who makes this distinction. Her own fondness for it is because the condescension is in the other direction: It was based on the idea that the bridegroom is to be congratulated on his good fortune, but that the bride IS that good fortune, and therefore should only be wished well.
But even without the gender factor, why do you consider it perfunctory to wish anyone well? Perhaps it has become devalued now that many use “Best wishes,” or just “Best,” instead of “Yours sincerely” or “Yours truly” to close letters.
You could bolster it by grabbing the bride’s hands and saying, “I wish you all the happiness in the world,” but perhaps that is not perfunctory enough — especially if others are behind you, waiting to congratulate her.