Just Behave

Just Behave: Get the Message

Our etiquette expert answers your questions.

BY July 10, 2018


I’ve been widowed for about 18 months, and a persistent neighbor (also a widow) continues to contact me to go out. I appreciate her kindness, but she is relentless. I do not want to lead her on or go out with her. I keep telling her no and that I’m busy, and she says, “How about the following week? Or the following week?” How do I tell her nicely to leave me alone? — Burt, Naples

Dear Burt,

Relentless? Yes. Kind? Maybe. Hard of listening? Most definitely. I wish you could deliver your message in the oral equivalent of capital letters. Your best move is to let her know that you’ll call her if and when you’re ready to go out. Tell her that you’re happy to be alone with your memories and that if something changes, you’ll let her know. If she still doesn’t get the drift, you could always say, “How about never?  Does never work for you?” (Of course I’m joking, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could speak our minds without hurting feelings?)


I have special diet restrictions, and every time I go to a restaurant I need to let the server know exactly how I need to have my food prepared. Most times, the server ignores my requests and I have to send the food back. I hate to waste food. Should I say something or just try to enjoy the meal? — Betty, Bonita Springs

Dear Betty,

Try to enjoy the meal? This is about your health and your pleasure, and you’re obviously footing the bill for this. Feed the server and kitchen a steady diet of “no” until they deliver the meal to your specifications. You shouldn’t have to deal with any consequences from food that isn’t good for you. So speak up, and bon appetit. Settle only for restaurants that serve your needs.


Is it only me, or are other people annoyed and grossed out when someone blows his or her nose at the dinner table? The other day I saw a grown man blow his nose into the linen napkin at a restaurant. I felt so sorry for the waitress who had to clean up after him. I also felt sorry for his dining companion. (And I felt sorry for me, too. It ruined my meal.) — Barbara, Fort Myers

Dear Barbara,

This is a bad case of folks putting their noses in other people’s business. Obviously, many diners think it’s simply fine to honk away at the table and clean their noses with a napkin, because I am asked this question over and over again. It’s not only gross but also unsanitary. Ideally, hands should be washed after blowing your nose, and that’s one of the reasons etiquette calls for noses to be blown in a restroom or another room away from the dining table. Let’s strike a blow for good health and good manners here.


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