Dear Miss Manners: When sitting in a sports bar during the Super Bowl at the time the singing of the national anthem is broadcast on TV, is it proper for the patrons to sit or stand? Or is either response proper?
Gentle Reader: If the rule of standing for the national anthem applied to recorded renditions, listening to the game on the radio while driving would be fatal.
However, Miss Manners would also like to prevent accidents in bars. She must therefore warn you about the Patriotic Police, who can be extremely belligerent about enforcing respect for the anthem and flag, even when they are not fully conversant with the rules. So if others get off their bar stools, and perhaps put their hands on their hearts, you may want to do so, too.
Dear Miss Manners: It seems inconsiderate to me when people RSVP to dinner invitations by saying they will come “if I can,” or “I’ll call an hour before to let you know whether I can make it,” when what I have needed is an accurate head count some days before the event.
Now I find myself in the shoes of my rude invitees, that is, wishing to accept but uncertain, for reasons beyond my control, whether I can make good on the commitment.
What is the proper response? My inclination is to decline rather than find myself having to withdraw at the last minute.
Gentle Reader: Remember when you were a child and did something unkind, and your mother said, “How would you feel if he did that to you?”
You were supposed to conclude that if you wouldn’t like this done to you, you should not do it to other people. Thus having discovered the Golden Rule for yourself, you were then supposed to use it to govern your conduct in general.
That is why your inclination is to decline an invitation that you may not be able to accept. Miss Manners suggests that you follow that inclination.
If you decline while explaining the circumstances, your host may or may not grant you an exception and say that you can defer the response.
Cutting in line
Dear Miss Manners: How do I properly address someone who cut the line in front of me?
Gentle Reader: As “Sir” or “Madam,” continuing with, “I believe that the end of the line is over there.”
Miss Manners doesn’t want to know what you were thinking of saying, but you will only incite worse behavior unless you give the breaker-in a dignified way to retreat.
Help with cleanup
Dear Miss Manners: My husband feels it is poor manners to expect the family to help with the cleanup after a big holiday meal. They are all adults, and I have done all the cooking entirely by myself.
They have never objected, but after more than 50 years, he has decided to make an issue of this.
Gentle Reader: Please tell him that Miss Manners congratulates him for sparing all his relatives, you above all, by volunteering – albeit belatedly – to do all the cleaning up alone.
A health query
Dear Miss Manners: I have a male friend whose family I don’t know and have never met.
My male friend has just been hospitalized, and I don’t know why. Is it appropriate to ask the family member whom he is in contact with what happened?
Gentle Reader: No, but you can get them to tell you.
Not everyone wants his or her medical history to be spread around, as that has a tendency to attract unsolicited advice.
To indicate concern, rather than curiosity, Miss Manners advises that you not ask what happened, but instead confess that you have been worried about your friend and hope to hear that he will be all right.