Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

Miss Manners: Animated debates? Not great – nor embarrassing a guest.

Dear Miss Manners, This last Thanksgiving, at the close host with whom I have spent several Thanksgivings, the host and I have started a political discussion between dinner and dessert.

We are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the discussion was civil. The hostess informed me that our discussion displeased the other guests. She sent her comments only to me, not to her husband and me.

Before the whole party, she explained to me that it was not good to discuss politics when people did not agree, but her comments also included a long story telling that representatives of my political party had been rude in the last election. . She said to a point that she did not want his Thanksgiving deals with politics, so the subject of the conversation should be changed.

I was so upset by this thankless treatment that I discreetly left the party a few minutes later. The next day she called to say that she regretted that I felt the need to leave, but that she had the right to settle the topic of the conversation at her home. She did not apologize for embarrassing me, but she reiterated that politics was not an appropriate topic of conversation.

I grew up in a politically divided household; my father was a democrat and my mother was republican. There were frequent political discussions, often passionate, but always civil and respectful. My hometown was also a small state capital, so political discussions were always part of any social gathering.

Have we reached a point in this country where politics can only be discussed with like-minded people? In the evenings, should we give up passionate discussions about politics, the arts, religion – basically all ideas – and focus only on the mundane events of people's daily lives?

Needless to say, I will not attend any party at this friend's house (assuming I'm invited), but should I avoid discussing anything that may be considered controversial when I attend social events? ?

If you and your host were able to discuss your political differences in a civil and serene way, Miss Manners would consider this as a public service.

Mind you, she is aware of the social prohibition of controversial topics. But this concerns more specifically those who are unable to do so in a respectful way, which can now include a vast majority of the population.

There is no exception of this kind in the rule forbidding the guests.

Dear Miss Manners, When I receive guests for afternoon tea, do I use small plates, on which are placed tea cups, or do I use small plates and cups on assorted saucers?

Cups and saucers are correctly placed on the small plates, sometimes with a tiny towel between the saucer and the plate. This is especially convenient for all your guests who have three hands to hold the filled plate and saucer while drinking in the tea cup.

The new columns of Miss Manners are posted from Monday to Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website,

2018, by Judith Martin


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