Miss Manners: She came to my dinner party and spent the whole time on her phone

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a formal sit-down dinner for eight guests at my home. One guest was on her phone nearly the whole time -- texting and even watching live videos that her friends posted while others were trying to have a conversation.

She was away from the group, but the sounds were still audible. She arrived late and stayed by herself, on her phone, during the cocktail and hors d’oeuvres time. When it was time for dinner, once everyone was seated and the food was being passed, she got up to get the hors d’oeuvres and bring them to the table. Then she got up again to go to her car to bring pictures of her boyfriend to the table for us to see. Never excused herself.

When asked at the end of the party if she had been bored, she said she had had a great time, but was trying to include her long-distance boyfriend whom she misses so much and can’t go any length of time without contacting.

I didn’t want to call her out on her behavior at the party and am hesitant to do so now. She has very low self-esteem, but she also wonders why she loses friends. What can one do sensitively in a situation like this?

GENTLE READER: Sensitive to whom, exactly?

It can’t be to yourself or your guests, as your friend strikes Miss Manners as remarkably insensitive to them. But she agrees with you that allowing your friend to be so rude is also insensitive to her needs -- a phrase she shudders to use -- as it will only further isolate her.

As it would be impolite to correct your friend’s manners, the least unkind thing to do is to find a new eighth for your next party. And let’s stop asking the guests if they are bored.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I traveled by bus to attend a funeral for a family member in my hometown (where I no longer live). I don’t mind riding the bus, and in fact, I relish the chance to listen to a podcast or audiobook and unwind.

The bus ride was about two hours, and I was seated next to a woman whom I could not, despite my best and most mannerly efforts, disengage from conversation. Should something like this happen in the future, what is a polite but FIRM way to disengage a chatty stranger, short of simply putting in my earbuds and ignoring him or her?

GENTLE READER: The rude person on the bus -- or the train, or the airplane -- has convinced you that ignoring her would be rude. It feels rude. If we ignore her own rudeness in forcing you into a conversation, it would be.

Miss Manners often says that one rudeness does not justify another, so how can this woman’s rudeness cancel the rudeness of ignoring her?

Because it does. Etiquette is not stupid. It may, occasionally, allow one to use politeness as a bludgeon -- but it does not allow rudeness to be so used. You may listen to your audiobook with a clear conscience, but you must steel yourself to do so.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to