Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reading Miss Manners

Have you ever read “Miss Manners”? She has an advice column in the Washington Post about

... wait for it ...


That seems like it would be awfully dry, but she has such great style and wit, and sprinkles her columns with such fascinating insights into human nature, that in the end you enjoy reading useless (for most of us) information such as the proper way to address letters to foreign heads of state and what to wear if you are invited to a Presidential inauguration.

She also sometimes imparts useful (for most of us) information such as how to politely tell someone "no" and/or “eff-off” and/or "mind your own business," or how to politely respond to boorish jerks in the ... wait for it ... "manner" best designed to bug the crap out of the boorish jerk.

And I find her column particularly entertaining when someone writes in asking her how to tell someone else that they’ve been an ignorant boor, and she carefully and cheerfully and somewhat indirectly (and without ever calling anyone rude names) explains that the writer is, in fact, the ignorant boor in the situation.

I love the fact that she makes very clear that "being polite" does not require sheepishly acquiescing to dumb corporate policies, irritating requests for private information by gossip mongers, or outrageous demands by friends or family to allow them to use your beach house for the entire summer or your car for the afternoon. In fact, she makes it clear that one can and should stand up for oneself when necessary, particularly in the face of rude questions and outrageous demands.

Being polite does, however, require refraining from using rude words and an unkind tone.

Thus, it requires a lot more creativity and resourcefulness to politely stand your ground than it does to jump every time someone demands it or (other extreme) to curse and scream at them to get them to back off.

I've read her column off and on for years. I may not be a better person for it, but I'm definitely more polite.

Check her out.* You might learn something. My friend “Bob” certainly did... I’ll share that story tomorrow.


* I'd provide a link, but you have to log in to read that section of the online paper so the link probably would not work. It's free though, so go ahead and sign up. Just go to and sign up / sign in. Then find Miss Manners in the "Style" section, under columnists, along with my other favorite advice columnist from the Post, Carolyn Hax.


SkylersDad said...

She is picked up by our local paper here, I enjoy reader her also..

Gentle Reader...

Gaston Studio said...

Also familiar with her, but am so glad to hear that she's require being polite to telemarketers...or did I read that wrong?

Ryan Ashley Scott said...

Manners? I don't know this word.

Sounds like a fun column - most of the time, it's not about the "about" as much as it is the giggles in between.

Fragrant Liar said...

Sheee-iiit. I could probably write that column myself; I mean how hard could it be? I would be a natural. If only I had manners.

Jenners said...

I love Miss Manners! If a paper has her in, I always read it! And sometimes I check it out online.