The Dallas Morning News
Piling on the embarrassment
Dear Miss Manners: I attended a meeting at work where a co-worker had a very embarrassing moment. I thought her recovery was remarkable, so I wrote an email about the incident to a friend:
“Melissa farted during the presentation to the exec committee. Yikes! And of course this would happen in front of the whole team in the first-floor conference room. She stood up, introduced herself, and let one rip. Of all the things!! Nevertheless, She Persisted.
“Instead of dying of embarrassment, she said, ‘Oh, wow. Excuse me! I wanted to finish with a bang, not start with one.’ Everybody laughed! She and Mark were able to get through it all with no other, ahem, ‘hiccups.’ Mr. Hartley said the presentation was terrific and thanked her for a ‘memorable morning.’ Maybe it was good luck!”
I sent this email to the wrong person, who then tweeted it out for laughs. I didn’t mention her last name or the name of the company. Should I tell my co-worker what happened, or just hope she never hears about it?
Gentle Reader: To what end? To show that you are repentant and will never do it again? Look up. That boat has drifted. Miss Manners hardly sees any purpose in going out of your way to point out the tweet to Melissa now. If she does find out, you may say that you are sorry and meant the summary to be flattering. To further soften the humiliation, you can let her know that Miss Manners commends her on her graceful recovery.
Dear Miss Manners: Watching Downton Abbey, I wondered if you would comment on the historical etiquette of inviting a visitor who has an undesirable valet.
Suppose you are the host in a great house of 1920s England. One of your friends has a valet who has committed an unspeakable crime against one of your maids, but she does not wish to pursue it through the police. Naturally you want your maid to be safe and feel comfortable, and not have to see this valet across the table in the servants’ hall.
Can you, in good manners, invite your friend to stay, but specify that he must leave his valet behind? Let us assume that your household is amply provided with footmen, one of whom would be available to help your friend dress while he is visiting. Or must you include the valet of anyone you wish to invite? Is it like inviting the spouse of the person you really want to see?
Alternatively, can you instruct the valet to take his meals in his room and not the servants’ hall? Or is the only way out to give the maid the days of the visit off, with pay?
Gentle Reader: Your first suggestion is the correct one: “We look forward to your visit to Penbrook Manor this spring. I am afraid, however, that we do not have the room to accommodate Algernon. We assure you that one of our valets will be available for any needs you may have while staying here.”
Miss Manners further points out that while social shunning — or our modern equivalent, “canceling” — can be decisive and overused, it does have its advantages when legal action is ineffective or undesirable.