Dear Miss Manners • I was responsible for a dinner party being cut short amid general consternation. Let me explain:
I was seated next to a gentleman, previously unknown to me, who grabbed my leg under the table during the entree course. Having been much affected by the #MeToo movement and reports of the behavior of certain public officials, I immediately and loudly called him out for what he was doing.
As a result, he and his spouse left, and the whole evening limped to an awkward close.
I must admit that my response felt good in the moment, but what is the correct course of action when assaulted by a fellow guest? And what should I write in my thank-you note to my hostess?
Gentle Reader • You are not the one responsible for ruining this dinner party. When a guest is physically attacked by another guest, one can hardly expect her to allow it to continue.
In retrospect, there are other ways to react that Miss Manners could suggest. You could have exclaimed “That’s my leg!” in a voice just loud enough to make him anxious to shut you up by pretending that it was an accident — although that would take some ingenuity on his part. (Perhaps he could have tried, “Oh, sorry; I was trying to scratch my leg” or “My mistake — I thought I was seated next to my wife.”)
Oh, back to your problem, not his. The end of a high heel in his foot would also have made the point, but we do try to avoid even retaliatory violence.
Your letter to your hostess should still express regret at the outcome, but with the understandable statement that you were so startled at the unexpected attack that you could hardly control your reaction.
Dear Miss Manners • Every Thanksgiving for decades, my brother (an oenophile with a climate-controlled wine cellar) insists “I’ll bring the wine!” This is his sole contribution.
He does indeed bring the wine, but subsequently seems quite reluctant to open it. I usually have to say, “Please open the wine; everyone is seated.”
That, in and of itself, is annoying to the hostess, who is sometimes halfway through her dinner before she is served a glass of wine. But the real kicker is that my brother then repossesses any wine that is left over when he departs.
This happens every year: both the reluctance to serve the wine and the taking of the leftovers. The hostess thinks this is rude. I am inclined to agree. Your thoughts?
Gentle Reader • As this happens every year, Miss Manners recommends a blanket solution. You could respond to your brother’s offer by saying, “Yes, but then hand it over so that the hostess can serve it right away. And please don’t run off with the bottle afterward.” Or the hostess could just grab it out of his hands when he arrives, as she is in charge of serving.