Life Advice



'Sorry I Didn't Fake-Compliment Your Terrible Cooking'

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Once, when I was invited to a dinner party, all of us thanked the host/cook after we were seated and started eating. The food wasn't great, but the other guests started complimenting the host on a delicious meal. I didn't say anything, because I felt it would be dishonest.

Recently, I found myself in a similar situation: My partner prepared dinner, and I thanked him before we started eating. After dinner, he complained that I don't compliment his cooking the same way he does mine.

I told the story about the dinner party, and he felt offended. What should I have done in both cases? I chose to keep quiet rather than being dishonest.

GENTLE READER: Well, you are not likely to have the problem again, as that is probably the last dinner your partner is going to cook for you.

It is an odd sense of morality that prohibits encouraging people who have tried to be nice to you. And there are many ways to do so.

Of course, the unfortunate cook should not have asked. But as he did, couldn't you have come up with something better than a comparison with another bad cook? There are things you can say without using the mendacious word delicious: You're right; I shouldn't take you for granted. I do think you are wonderful, for example, or, Oh, but this has been a wonderful evening.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an outraged message from my sister because I did not send the large check that was expected for my niece's wedding shower.

I was specifically excluded from the event because I live in Florida, and the hostess stated that she did not want anyone who lived in Florida in attendance due to the large numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state.

However, they did invite 50 people from all over the U.S. to attend in person, while I was only extended an invitation to attend via livestreaming -- I could remotely watch the event, from the arrival of all the guests through the meal and drink service and opening of the gifts.


Maybe I'm behind the times, but in my day, inviting those who were specifically excluded from a party to watch it from afar equated to treating someone like they were not worthy of the honor of being present.

I understand that there is a pandemic going on and that it has changed the way social events are done. If you want to livestream a wedding, baptism, graduation or other event that is typically only observed by attendees, fine. But if the celebratory party afterward is limited to a small number of people, keep it private and perhaps share a few photos afterward. And keep your expectations for gifts limited to those given by people granted the honor of being asked to attend in person.

GENTLE READER: Wait -- all that about prudent and imprudent choices in regard to the pandemic is irrelevant. The etiquette crimes here are: 1. Expecting donations, and 2. Chastising a presumed donor who did not come through. Miss Manners suggests that you confine your indignation to those.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






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