Miss Manners: How can I discourage a facetious marriage proposal?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am known as an exceptional cook and baker. I take great pleasure in entertaining, and pride myself on offering delicious, beautiful fare. Invitations are enthusiastically accepted, and even sought, which is certainly flattering.

I would consider myself otherwise to be a fairly average person: neither homely nor beautiful, rather quiet and reserved, no sparkling personality, but polite and pleasant. The food, and the more outgoing company that it attracts, would certainly be the draw at my dinner parties — and not me. That is fine. I am more a people-watcher than a “people person.” I do not want to be the center of attention.

My problem is that men at the dinner table declare their love for me and even propose marriage (though they, and I, are already married) with surprising frequency.

I completely understand that they do not mean what they are saying, that it is just an awkward compliment about the food and nothing more. Nor do I have any romantic interest whatsoever in these gentlemen. But I hate to see the hurt expression on their lovely wives’ faces when their husbands make these outrageous comments, and I am rather annoyed when my husband begins to act possessive in the face of this false competition for my affections.

Is there a charming way to end this nonsense and protect the feelings of the ladies present without upsetting the party?

GENTLE READER: “Well, can any of you …” and then you name some household skill your husband has. Or just reel off a list of what were traditionally considered manly tasks: rewiring the lights, fixing the roof, building bookcases, fixing the plumbing and such.

You are bound to hit at least one that each of the wives wishes her husband would do, or has always done herself. Those wistful looks will turn into gently accusatory smiles at their husbands, and you are unlikely to receive such ridiculous compliments from them again.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of ours did us a small kindness. When we thanked her, she replied, “God told me to.”

In the moment, I interpreted it as pretty close to “I wouldn’t have done it, but my boss made me,” and I was frozen into an awkward silence. In retrospect, I know she didn’t mean it unkindly. But I can’t think of what I should have properly said in response.

GENTLE READER: “Please thank Him for me.” Or Her, if you prefer.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Reading the 1903 wedding announcement of an antecedent, I wondered about this statement: “Cards have not been sent.” What did this mean in a 1903 newspaper social announcement?

GENTLE READER: The items in question would have been engraved cards of admission, to be presented for entrance to the wedding venue — used only at weddings where there would be reason to think that the uninvited would be pressing to get in.

As apparently cards might have been expected, and your relative had to deny using them, that must have been some wedding.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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Author: Judith Martin

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