How to Respond to Anti-American Comments
Each week, Miss Manners answers questions exclusively from the MSN audience on all of your etiquette dilemmas. (Have an issue you want help with? Send in a question today.) Read on for this week's hot topics:
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
I am an American living overseas in an English-speaking country. For six years I have been hearing about how fat, loud, and stupid my countrymen and women are, although there tends to be a compliment of sorts thrown in : "For an American, you're so thin!" or "Your voice is so soft for a Yank!"
I don't know whether to say "Thank you" or "How dare you?" I'm not sure either is entirely appropriate, nor do I wish to point out that the makers of these comments are hardly mellifluous-voiced sylphs themselves. I like this country and I like my country of origin, too. Can you please suggest a polite response to these remarks that will not start a quarrel but will also make it clear that anti-American comments are not acceptable to me?
This is an ugly problem that Miss Manners has encountered since her childhood, when her dear father, serving abroad, used to be told that he didn't "seem like an American" with the explanation that it was because he was "cultured."
Sadly, such remarks are often made with impunity. Some Americans --either because they are confounded or because they harbor some sort of self-hating snobbery about their own country-- take them for compliments. Miss Manners can think of no other population that would accept national insults without objection, perhaps violent objection.
She is not suggesting duels. But you can register the insult with polite coldness by saying something like "You must not know many Americans. I've encountered badly behaved (or fat, loud, uncultured) people here, of course as one does everywhere. But I respect this country and know that most of your countrymen are not like that."
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
My son and future daughter-in-law booked a church wedding and a reception in a city approximately one hour drive out of our area. Most of our guests will be from our area.
The problem is that there is a three hour gap in time after the ceremony and the reception. It would be inconvenient for our guests to go home and return for the reception.
I feel that expecting them to entertain themselves for three hours on their own is rude. I think that we need to make arrangements such as a hospitality room at a hotel with refreshments and food for the lapse in time. My son and future daughter-in-law think that it is totally unnecessary. What do you think?
That it is totally necessary.
Have you asked your son and his bride what they imagine the guests will do for those three hours? And have you discovered, as Miss Manners suspects, that this was not on their list of worries?
It is sad that bridal couples often need to be told that their guests are their guests. They are not some sort of audience lucky to be allowed to witness the wedding and responsible for furnishing the resulting household or even for paying the bills.
It is the responsibility of those who plan weddings to arrange for the guests' comfort. The problem should have been caught earlier, so that the time gap would not exist, but the least that should be done now is to find a way to help the guests pass the time pleasantly.
Judith Martin's latest book is No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice. She is also the author ofMiss Manners' Guide toExcruciatingly Correct Behavior(Freshly Updated). She and her husband, a scientist and playwright, live in Washington, D.C. They have two perfect children, of course.
I know I'm REAAALLLLY late to the party, and the wedding in question is probably now just a memory, but still wanted to contribute my thoughts:
This is rude on SO many levels. First, it pretty much tells all of the guests that the bridal couple places no value on the time of those who made the effort to share their special day. ("So it's 3 hours between the ceremony and reception. Deal with it. You know, because it's OUR day and we're SPECIAL!!! " )
In addition, it leaves the guests incredibly inconvenienced and quite possibly left with additional expenses, like gas, food, paying the babysitter for extra hours, etc.
With a 3 hour lapse between events, I would probably just decline the invitation altogether. They don't care about my time or comfort? I don't care about their wedding. But I realize not everyone can or will just skip the whole thing because the bridal couple is being so inconsiderate.
High praise to the mother of the groom for addressing the situation and trying to do something about it. Hopefully they were able to work something out to accomodate the guests during the 3 hour "intermission".
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