Miss Manners: Our guest had a long phone call at the table during a holiday dinner. I wanted to douse her with wine.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Because of COVID, we had not been having our regular family and friends Seder. We were happy to restart the occasion and had a rather large gathering.

During the Seder, one of the family began an online call at the table with a missing relative who was invited but declined, as they lived out of state. This call lasted 10 to 15 minutes, in the middle of the Seder.

I considered beating the caller with a stick, or at least dousing them with wine. My spouse was similarly angry.

This guest is, at best, unpleasant to be around. This night, they exceeded unpleasantness and selfishness. What should we have done?

GENTLE READER: Dousing this person with wine is likely to result in a stain on your tablecloth and an amusing video you might not want to have circulated.

Miss Manners believes you would be better off asking to say hello to the absent relative, and then adding, “We’re sorry you can’t be here, but you will excuse us exiting now, so that we can continue with the Seder.”

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When we celebrated Easter with my family, my husband brought his tablet in the car and into our relative’s house. He uses it to game.


We have had many arguments over the excessive gaming. I asked him not to bring it into the relative’s home. His reply was, “I’m an adult; don’t tell me what to do.” He proceeded to walk in with it.

Several times during the holiday, he used it to play his game. I was embarrassed and appalled. I could go on and on. He is gaming a lot in our home as well.

GENTLE READER: You have a worse problem than the etiquette violation of his blatantly ignoring his hosts: He is not respecting your feelings. Miss Manners suggests dealing with that horrendous problem first.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I were invited to a dinner party (for eight people) about one month in advance. We happily accepted, but a few days before the party, I started to experience cold symptoms. By the day of the party, I had definitely come down with a cold, with intermittent coughing and nose-blowing.

My wife insisted that we should still attend because we accepted the invitation (and it was “just a cold”), but I was torn between spoiling our friends’ long-planned dinner party with an 11th-hour cancellation or subjecting the other guests to my cough. She did not want to attend alone.

Where do you draw the line between an annoying late cancellation and keeping a commitment when feeling under the weather?

GENTLE READER: Where germs are involved. Disappointed as your hosts may be at your not attending, they would be more upset later to find that they had entertained those uninvited guests.

Miss Manners hopes that you did not attend and have apologized to the hosts, mentioning that you wish you could have notified them earlier. And that you have skipped pointing out that getting a cold was not your fault.

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