DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I go to my boyfriend’s house, his teenage daughter (age 15) is usually in her bedroom with the door closed. When she comes out, she will tell her father what she is going to do, but will never even acknowledge that I am sitting there; no “hello,” “hi,” nothing. My boyfriend sits right next to me and sees that she does this, but doesn’t say anything to her.
Is her not saying anything to me considered bad manners, or just normal teenager behavior? Do I greet her first or, if her behavior is considered rude, do I wait for him to correct her?
GENTLE READER: You would have to consult the parent of a teenager to determine what constitutes normal behavior, since teenagers often have trouble recognizing a behavior yardstick against which to measure themselves.
Not being one to accept “but everyone does it” as an answer, Miss Manners confirms that whatever other teenagers may do, this behavior is rude.
But there is no order of greeting: It would be equally rude of you to sit in silence. Say “Hello.” If she pointedly ignores you, then there is a problem to discuss with your boyfriend after she leaves the room.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who takes the liberty of volunteering my time and resources. Two examples:
1. She happened to be visiting when a young person of my acquaintance showed up uninvited, and asked to sleep on my couch. Before I could formulate a reply (which I intended to be negative), Visiting Friend piped up, “Sounds fine to me!”
2. In a logistics discussion involving my daughter, her boyfriend, and a flight arriving at an inconvenient time, Friend said, “I think (my name) should help you out on renting a car.” On that occasion, I shot back, “Way to volunteer my time and money!”
What can I respond next time she does this that will not leave me looking chintzy or inhospitable? She’s the one who’s out of line; why can’t others see that?
GENTLE READER: Others do see that. You had everyone’s sympathy right up to the point of your ill-advised snappy comeback. Had you kept your head, all would have been well.
Miss Manners would have responded with an enormous smile — meant to demonstrate that your friend’s behavior is amusing because the question was obviously not hers to answer — followed with, “I do wish that were possible, but it is not.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My British office has decreed that Fridays are “Dress Down Days” and we are encouraged to wear casual clothing. I actually prefer wearing a suit and tie; I feel quite comfortable and I think I look better. Is there a way of answering the, “Why haven’t you dressed down?” questions without sounding like a prig or a snob? Or am I both?
GENTLE READER: You are a gentleman with a proper respect for looking professional. But as Miss Manners fears that your colleagues are not, the best answer may be, “Oh, is today Friday?” or “I have some serious work to do. Maybe next week.”
This will grow less believable each time it is used, but colleagues will also grow weary of asking. They will already have concluded that you are a prig and a snob, but that may be the cost of looking better than they do.