DEAR MISS MANNERS: Would you enlighten us as to when children’s tables are appropriate?
My brother and I are 17 and 15, and we were required to eat a holiday meal in a separate room with the host couple’s 7-year-old son. We have never shown our relatives anything but good table manners, and are always respectful and reserved as guests. This arrangement insulted us, but was it a breach of etiquette?
GENTLE READER: Hosts faced with limited room at the dining room table are forced to make a cut-off age for the children’s table — and Miss Manners is guessing that in this case, it was 18.
The good news is that this is a problem that you will soon age out of — at which point Miss Manners will good-naturedly entertain your complaints about the boring adults, and your desire to return to the children’s table so that you can gossip about them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I sent a floral delivery to my sister-in-law for Christmas. She responded to my husband (as she always does) by text, saying, “Thank you for thinking of me, the floral tree is pathetic! Demand your money back. Picture to follow.”
The photo was never sent. Since it is too late for us to fix it, I would rather not know that my thoughtfulness failed. How does one respond to that?
GENTLE READER: While your sister-in-law was brusque and failed to follow through, Miss Manners does not condemn the sentiment. If there is, as you say, something to be done about it, she would think you would want to know if a present was sent damaged. You could have responded, “I am so sorry it did not please you. If you can send us that picture, we will be sure to get in touch with the florist and ask for a replacement, on the grounds that it was not up to their usual standard.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At family gatherings, everyone prepares several dishes for a buffet-style meal. My sister-in-law will visually assess what I put on my dinner plate. She then verbally calls me out in front of everyone if she feels I did not take enough of (or any) of the food she prepared.
At one gathering, she told me I have to try what she made and I cannot leave her house until I do. How do I respond to such controlling behavior in front of all the relatives and guests?
GENTLE READER: “Thank you, I am full. I wasn’t planning on spending the night, but if you are insisting, perhaps I can have it for breakfast.” And then hope that this public response garners laughs, and not an invitation.
Miss Manners further recommends that in a less heated moment, you suggest that if your sister-in-law feels that it is so important for her guests to eat only what she cooks, then she should not be giving potluck dinners.