DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was at a party for a financial business, where everyone was dressed up and having cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before a sit-down dinner and dancing. A woman stood nearby for several minutes with her back to me. When she turned and we caught each other’s eyes, I told her I had been admiring her dress and that it was a very interesting print.
She responded, “Thank you, it’s a (something Italian).”
I’ve heard of this type of response to a compliment before, but always thought it was some kind of joke -- perhaps making fun of certain types of people, like the Housewives of Wherever. I was totally unprepared for her comment, and just grunted in response. My first thought was to ask if she had gotten it at a thrift store, but I wisely kept that to myself.
I guess I don’t run in the right circles, so can you enlighten me as to the proper reaction? Or was her statement a natural response to my comment on the print? What do I say next time besides “Oh”?
GENTLE READER: “Oh” is fine. What shocks Miss Manners is that you were unaware of the widespread habit of flaunting brand names.
And it’s not just the rich. The manufacturers of those brands often sell small, less-expensive -- if still overpriced -- products featuring their name so that the non-wealthy can participate in this peculiar practice.
In addition, the appearance of “influencers” has planted the idea that admiration is connected with the desire to imitate; therefore, supplying you with specific information would be considered useful. As you stated an interest in the dress, this might have been the wearer’s assumption. But that doesn’t mean you need to continue such conversations.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: From time to time, I participate in potluck meals at church and with other groups. From experience, I know that if I bring deviled eggs, they will all be eaten. Sometimes, I bring other items, whether because of schedule, logistics or simple preference.
I also know from experience that some of the salads that I bring generally do not get eaten. These are dishes that I find delicious, but apparently participants do not find them appealing.
Is it somehow rude of me to persist in bringing offerings that I know have little likelihood of being consumed? After I bring the leftovers back home, I’m happy to eat them myself.
GENTLE READER: Very clever -- bringing something nobody likes, so that you can contribute without actually feeding anyone but yourself. While it is not a violation of the rules, Miss Manners counts it as a violation of the spirit of these events.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was a dinner guest where the main course was a very spicy soup. I could barely eat it. Others at the table finished eating their servings.
Is there something polite I could have said to the hostess, as my full bowl of soup was removed from the table at the end of the meal?
GENTLE READER: Such as what?
“Couldn’t finish it”? (Obvious.) “Too spicy”? (Rude.) “I have a delicate stomach”? (Too graphic, not to mention alarming.) “Yum”? (Dishonest and unbelievable.) “I’m full”? (So -- no dessert?)
Miss Manners can only hope that your hosts have the good manners not to peer into your soup plate and comment on the contents.