DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I fly, I choose the aisle seat because I don’t want to feel “hemmed in,” as I do in the window and middle seats. But inevitably, the person in the window seat in my row puts the shade down so they can sleep. This makes me feel a little claustrophobic.
I have learned to grin and bear it, but it is annoying and feels rude. The window occupant never asks if it is OK with the rest of us in the row to close the shade.
Is the window occupant the sole ruler of the shade? Do I have a right to ask for it to stay open? What is the etiquette here?
GENTLE READER: There are so few comforts to flying these days that Miss Manners is inclined to be indulgent on the small perks afforded to any given seat.
In her opinion, the advantages to each are as follows: The aisle has leg room and bathroom access, the middle gets right of first refusal to the armrests, and the window seat affords privacy and, well, the window.
If anyone wants access to another’s benefits, we have to work together (although Miss Manners has noticed that on some flights and at certain times, window shade status is mandated by airline staff). As long as everyone is polite, each may ask the other for whatever they like.
And then all of us have to adjust when the airlines change their rules at whim.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Since the pandemic, I have put on weight, and I’ve gotten a number of comments about it from workmates and friends. Some people will blurt something out thoughtlessly, but I’ve had a number of more deliberate comments that have really hurt my feelings.
For example, a cousin pointed out that I looked ... (insert meaningful pause) ... “well.” Someone at work once asked me, “Wow, have you lost weight?” to trap me into embarrassing myself. (They knew very well that I hadn’t.)
To be honest, I am happier now than I have been for many years: I went to a doctor to get help with my sleep issues, I am working on my anxiety and I had some of my teeth capped. I feel better about myself now, and don’t want to be body-shamed anymore.
Please help me with how best to respond. These comments shouldn’t bother me, but they really hurt my feelings.
GENTLE READER: It is impolite to comment on someone’s weight in any form, but Miss Manners would be remiss if she did not point out that the two examples you give are not, in and of themselves, insults. Or if they were, attempts were made to politely disguise them. She simply wishes to caution you against looking for insults or subtext if there is a chance that none was intended.
Nevertheless, you may object to any comments on your appearance with a curt, “How kind of you to notice” -- followed by the “meaningful pause” that your cousin so pointedly used.