Dear Mrs. Manners,

UPDATE: It seems that some people arriving at this post think I am an advice columnist. I am not. Please do not leave comments or send e-mail seeking etiquette advice, unless you just want any old opinion, and in that case, why not stop some people on the street? I really don’t have time. Anyway, this is a personal blog. This entry took the form of a letter to a “Mrs.” Manners — the real one is Miss — as a joke. Regular readers got it. If you were sent here by Google, that’s because Google is just a search engine, not a human being. OK? OK.

I have an etiquette question I’d like your opinion on. My husband, daughter and two of our friends are staying in one of those low- to moderate-priced hotels you see all over these United States, where you can get a clean, pleasant room close to your business and, of course, a free breakfast.

My question is: What is appropriate attire for the breakfast room? Having traveled with a toddler, I know that many of the little beasts wake up HONGRY and want to eat NOW and don’t necessarily feel like getting dressed and having their hair combed and otherwise made presentable for a public audience. So yes, I have taken my kid to the hotel breakfast room in her jammies.

But *I* got dressed! I didn’t put on makeup and curl my hair, but I pulled on a pair of jeans, put shoes on my feet and wore a bra. I ran a comb through my bedhead hairdo. Alas, even this minimal effort seems beyond the adult hotel guests of today.

Yesterday we were met in the breakfast room by a couple. He: Plaid flannel boxer shorts, rumpled T-shirt, untied sneakers. Her: Tank top (no bra), shorts, flip-flops. Both: Lots of visible tattoo ink, not that that’s of consequence. They had obviously gone from bed to the breakfast room with no significant stop in the bathroom in between. Which would have merely been annoying, but then he let rip with a uvula-rattling belch! My daughter, who appreciates such humor, cracked up. “Whoa,” he said. “Excuse me.”

That was yesterday. I had higher hopes for this morning, the day of Our Lord, but no. While I waited for the elevator, I saw a yawning woman leave her room in slippers, buttoning a robe over her nightgown. You AREN’T, I thought to myself. She was.

I ask you: I know the country has gotten progressively slobbier and more casual in recent years, but isn’t this going too far? Sign me: Bewildered in Beertown.

Dear Bewildered: Yes. You are right to stick to your sartorial guns, such as they are. That your fellow hotel guests aren’t only speaks to your superior breeding. Of course, you are in a state that broke, narrowly, for Kerry. It’s obviously a case of blue-state immorality and otherwise lax moral standards corrupting the rest of America. Have a nice drive home.

Posted at 9:03 am in Uncategorized |

15 responses to “Dear Mrs. Manners,”

  1. Danny said on November 7, 2004 at 9:45 am

    Nance, I read your blog this morning over coffee and then I browsed around and found this editorial. I was wondering what you think of it. I read it and thought he had a good point about simplification of the issues, but I I did not find it too…focused? I dunno, maybe I need to get my butt out on the bike and think on this some more.

    BTW, who is David Brooks and has the Times gone and gotten itself another token conservative?

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  2. Linda said on November 7, 2004 at 9:59 am

    Someone recently wrote the ettiquette/advice column of our local mag, “Vancouver”, and asked, “Why do people meander slowly down the middle of the sidewalk, blocking the way for those of us who have to get somewhere? Why can’t people just learn to walk??” And the answer was, “I think it’s just plain cluelessness, rather than deliberate rudeness.” I think that probably applies as well to slobs who go out in public dressed disrespectfully. They are completely clueless. Or just too lazy to care.

    When I was growing up, my parents always made us take a bath and wear clean clothes when we were going out. We may have “progress” today, what with computers and plasma tv’s and computerized cars and such, but there’s a lot to be said for the “good ole days” when men wore suits and ties to go out and women wore nice dresses and hats.

    And when did belching and farting in front of other people become the norm? My husband farted in front of me while we were still dating and I find that uncalled for and rude. I used to work with a nurse who walked around letting off the most killer farts and her attitude about it was, oh well, it’s a natural body function…


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  3. brian said on November 7, 2004 at 10:52 pm

    wait’ll you watch some of the unkempt children of the unkempt adults paw through ALL the pastries and so on, before selecting the one they want. I’ve seen that a few times, which puts me off anything but sealed foods (those neat little cereal containers, or unpeeled bananas for example) – unless I see the food service folks bring out doughnuts or bagels.

    ‘Course – who knows what THEY did before bringing it out – but that falls under the header “how they make sausage”…

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  4. Linda said on November 7, 2004 at 11:56 pm

    Back in the mid 80’s, I worked at the Scott’s Grocery in Bluffton. There was this family, one of those every-small-town-has-one families, that would come in. They were dirty and unkempt and the kids ran wild around the store while the mother screamed at them. You never had to see her to know she was in the store. Once, another customer reported to the manager that they witnessed two of the kids open a plastic squeeze bottle of mustard, squirt some in their mouths, then close it again and return it to the shelf. Now, every time I struggle to peel that protective plastic off the rim of a salad dressing or condiment bottle, I think: thanks alot, Beulah!

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  5. Michael G said on November 8, 2004 at 9:07 am

    I travel a lot for work, in fact tonight I’ll be in Fresno, but I NEVER eat at those free cold breakfast buffets featured by some motels. The cornflakes, bad coffee and stale doughnuts — yeugh. Not to mention the slobs pawing over and slopping up the free food. There’s something about free food that brings out the worst in people. No thanks. I just can’t bring myself to go into that room. I’m outta there about 0630 for a real breakfast down the street even if I do have to pay a few $$.

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  6. alex said on November 8, 2004 at 11:33 am

    My most disgusting restaurant memory, at least in recent times, was a buffet in Hollywood, Florida. Some friends dragged me there, swearing up and down that it was so good I just had to try it, never mind I was on vacation and wanted to sample the local Cuban and ocean fare. Anyway, I found myself in line behind a woman who was licking her fingers in between picking up each of the serving utensils on the buffet. I was so grossed out I had to put my plate down and walk out of the place.

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  7. jill said on November 8, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    My illustration of the decline of appropriate clothing choices for young people:

    At my kindergartner’s school holiday party last year, the student teacher was sitting at the table, in those little kindergartner-sized chairs, and her jeans were so low that all of us, grandpa and the baby included, had a full view of her thong. At first I thought maybe she didn’t know that her butt was on display for the entire class, but my husband pointed out that there just isn’t any way you could NOT know something like that. Clueless and/or lazy. Take your pick.

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  8. John said on November 8, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    The thongs are bad enough, but some girls have taken to wearing “Norge Man” jeans. When we see one, I always tell my wife that I’m going to play “Drop the Clothes Pin in the Milk Bottle” game with a quarter.


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  9. Melissa said on November 21, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    I am having a baby shower thrown for me and i want to make sure that i am doing the right thing in giving a gift to the friend that is throwing the shower for me. What is a good gift to give someone as a thank you for doing this? Or should i even be giving her a gift?

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  10. wendy aiken said on January 28, 2005 at 11:55 am

    I have a female roommate that when she eats she “slops” her food….very noisy and irritating…how can I tell her her without hurting feelings how irritating she is????

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  11. Vickie said on February 25, 2005 at 10:23 am

    I am planning a graduation party at a hall that I have paid for and will be assuming all the expense. Some individuals have indicated that they plan to come and celebrate their birthday, etc. How do I tell them or indicate on the invites that this is a private celebration, especially since I am paying for everything.

    Please respond,

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  12. Karen Jones said on March 9, 2005 at 10:27 am

    I work in a cubical structured office. The woman who sits on the other side of me has a NASTY Cough. She has coughing fits that sound like she is gagging to the point of hurling. It is Nauseating, and disquesting to listen to. Especially if I am in the process of having something to eat. Please tell me what is the proper way to deal with this situation. I have talked to both my supervisor and her supervisor asking for them to ask her to leave her desk when she is having an attack or to at least wear a mask. All to no avail. Either she is not getting the message or she just doesn’t care. It is extremely disrespectful to her fellow coworkers for her not to address this problem.

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  13. Chris Hendon said on September 20, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    I have a verly close friend whos father is in ICU and not expected to live. All family members have arrived and now its a wait and see. I would like to offer to hold a reception after the funeral but not sure how to approach her with this, and if it is appropriate to have it at her home her ask the church for a room? Since her father hasn’t actually passed away would it be rude to volunteer for this? How do I handle this so she knows I want to help but at the same time I don’t want to intrude.


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  14. Max Well said on September 28, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    I am a II (second), some people insist on calling me Jr. I hate that. I have never gone by Jr. and do not plan on it. I use II only on formal documents. What is the rule on this, if I am a II, does this make me a Jr? Are they actually the same thing? Please explain.

    Not this Junior

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  15. Kim said on October 1, 2005 at 12:58 am

    My brother in law is getting married. My husband went to the bachelor party in Mexico, rented his tux, spending 2 nights at a hotel for the wedding, and our daughter is in the wedding. My question to you is do we have to give a gift?

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