Life Advice



Pontificating Pal's Pre-Meal Prayers Press Patience

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a dear friend of many years who is now a member of a fundamentalist religion. I am an atheist. She has recently started saying grace out loud when we meet for lunch at a restaurant.

At first, I awkwardly stopped eating while she said it, then I started to half-pause, half-nibble on my food until she was finished with her lengthy prayer. The last time she announced she would be saying grace, I agreed that that was fine, but that I don't say grace; I then tucked into my food while she said a fairly long prayer.

If she were to say grace silently, I would feel differently about it, and would wait for her to finish. Her saying it out loud, and including me in her messages to her deity -- Please help (my name) to overcome (difficulty) -- feels like I'm being forced to join in.

What is the most mannerly way to respond the next time she announces she is going to pray out loud?

GENTLE READER: Your first reaction -- waiting in respectful silence for her to finish -- is the right place to start. Miss Manners does not subscribe to the notion that merely being present and respectful when someone else practices their religion is tantamount to endorsing that religion.

But neither does she condone your friend's misuse of that basic respect as a cover for proselytizing to an unwilling subject. You could excuse yourself from the table and return when services are concluded.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A small group of friends meets each week for games, drinks and snacks. A new member, who is a not a wine drinker, would bring wine now and then for everyone else. She is aware of the type of wine that we all prefer.

One time she brought a bottle, and I'll just say it was the total opposite of the type we drink. I gave it back to her with the comment that it wasn't one that we would drink, and commented on why.

She argued with me that it was the correct type. I pointed out the specifics, and she concurred that she had made a mistake. My intention was that she return the bottle and get her money back.


However, I have been wondering if that was the right way to handle that. Since then, she never brings wine, and seems rather cool towards me. What do you do when a guest brings a wine that is to no one's liking?

GENTLE READER: You identified a problem and you fixed it, Miss Manners can hear you saying, with the word proactive featuring prominently in your explanation, no doubt.

But your approach was rude, it hurt your friend's feelings, and it solved a problem that did not need solving. You could have thanked your friend and left the bottle out on the table. When no one drank it, your friend would have had to draw her own conclusions.


(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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