Miss Man­ners

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - ADVICE & PUZZLE - — Dis­trib­uted by Uni­ver­sal Uclick You can 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, Uni­ver­sal Uclick, 1130 Wal­nut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

Dear Miss Man­ners: Since the birth of my daugh­ter five years ago, I have be­come aware of a ten­dency in adults, es­pe­cially older adults, to treat chil­dren as the butt of jokes, of­ten de­mand­ing a re­sponse.

When we had to call a tow truck last year, the driver re­peat­edly ribbed my daugh­ter about crash­ing the car, jok­ingly pre­tend­ing she was the driver. When she later asked me how she should have re­sponded, I had no idea.

When she was a tod­dler, her own grand­fa­ther seemed to make fun of the fact that she ate any­thing at all. I re­ally couldn’t ex­plain why he thought it was funny. When she ate, he would just go into amock chew­ing rou­tine.

When she went to the doc­tor for shots, bring­ing along her doll, the nurses made fun of the doll’s name for not be­ing suf­fi­ciently “orig­i­nal.”

We wit­nessed some adults teas­ing a 4- year- old for al­legedly hav­ing the same name as a princess. They kept ask­ing, “Where’s your crown?” un­til she stated that she didn’t have one and walked away.

How on earth are chil­dren meant to re­spond?

Gen­tle Reader: Why any­one feels the need to tease peo­ple or state the ob­vi­ous is be­yondMis­sMan­ners.

How­ever, as your last ex­am­ple demon­strates, chil­dren gen­er­ally lack the fil­ter to cen­sor them­selves when asked silly ques­tions, and are there­fore mostly ca­pa­ble of ad­e­quate de­fense. When the chil­dren are old enough to con­trol these im­pulses— which is younger than most are given credit for — a par­ent would do well to teach them the “weak smile” ( closed, up­turned lips ac­com­pa­nied by a se­ri­ous stare). While tech­ni­cally po­lite, when done cor­rectly it con­veys the proper amount of weari­ness to halt fur­ther un­wanted teas­ing. This ges­ture will un­doubt­edly get them through amyr­iad of un­funny and un­wel­come quips and con­ver­sa­tions that, as hu­mans, they will likely have to en­dure for a long time to come.

Dear Miss Man­ners: Fre­quently, I hear voice­mail greet­ings where the per­son I am­call­ing in­forms me that they will re­turn my call at their “ear­li­est con­ve­nience.” Is this the ap­pro­pri­ate/ po­lite way to use this phrase? Am I wrong to find this a bit rude?

Gen­tle Reader: Thep­hrase first ap­peared in busi­ness set­tings as a re­quest (“Please re­turn my call at your ear­li­est con­ve­nience”), rather than a prom­ise — the test re­sults had come in and your doc­tor’s of­fice was ex­press­ing the hope that you would call back.

Promis­ing that you will call some­one back when it is con­ve­nient to you cer­tainly lacks charm, al­thoughMiss Man­ners sus­pects that peo­ple have heard the phrase so­many times they have sim­ply stopped pars­ing the ac­tual words.

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