Manners Monday: Saying No

Cherished readers, do you find it easy to say no when you are asked to do something you do not wish to do? For instance, how would you respond to these questions:

  1. We’d like to invite you to dinner next week. My mother-in-law is having issues with her gout and would like to discuss her toes with your husband. We know he is a wonderful doctor. Can you make it next Tuesday at 7?
  2. Jack and I will be in town at the end of the month and we were wondering if we could stay with you for four days?
  3. Can you volunteer for _______this weekend?
  4. Can I borrow a thousand dollars?

None of these scenarios is particularly attractive and unless you are a saint, not anything you would like to do. (The Lady acknowledges that sometimes your answer will depend on who is doing the asking.)

One of the skills that The Lady thinks is essential for all to know is the art of saying ‘No’ politely, yet firmly. The best way is to say “No, thank you” or even “I’m so sorry, I/we can’t.” The key is to make this statement and then be silent. Say nothing more. The Lady has found that this usually works, but occasionally some pushy person will keep on and ask “Why not?” The answer to this question is “I’m afraid it’s not possible.” And then be silent once more. One does not need to make up an implausible story to justify or explain why you are saying no.

It takes practice. For The Lady it took years of practice and anxious and resentful feelings after saying ‘Yes’ when I meant ‘No’. There is great freedom in this skill!

Best No-No Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett


Manners Monday: Personal Questions

Cherished readers, The Lady had an interesting discussion with a friend on the subject of personal questions. She was amazed that her daughter-in-law actually answered when someone asked her age. I could sympathize with her surprise, but I also acknowledge that the younger generations are generally much more open about things than we ancients are. (The Lady is not really ancient…but she likes to pretend to be of a different era.)

Even with these more open, free social customs, The Lady believes that the following examples fall into the category of personal questions:

-How much money do you make/have/plan to inherit?

-How much did this cost? How can you afford this?

-When are you going to have children/stop having more children/discipline the children you have?

-What exactly is wrong with your health?

-Why are you getting divorced?

-How much do you weigh? (Ha…you knew that one was going to make the list!)

-Did you have some work done? (Referring to plastic surgery, not work on the house or car)

-Is it real? (Whatever it is…a gemstone, bosom, derriere, hair, etc…)

In all things, cherished readers, discretion is your friend. No probing questions.

Best Manners Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

A Question of Asparagus

Cherished readers, The Lady was pleased to find this electronic correspondence while she sipped coffee this morning.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I am a busy mom with three young sons. I have tried to teach them correct table manners. During our weekly Try-A-New-Food night meal, I served asparagus to them for the first time. I had instructed them that they could eat the asparagus spears with their fingers, but my husband told me that he felt this wasn’t correct. Do you know?


Trying My Best 

Dear Trying My Best,

You ask if I know the answer and The Lady humbly says….why, yes, I do.

You may use the side of your fork to gently cut the soft part of the asparagus spear, impale it on the fork, and then convey it to your mouth. This method is preferred in most conservative circles, especially if the asparagus is quite soft and has been covered in some type of sauce.

If, however, the stalks are firm with the sauce only applied to the tops, you may properly pick the spears up with your fingers and eat the soft edible part down to the tough part of the spear. You would then neatly place the devoured stalks on the side of your plate.

You did not reveal to The Lady how you served this noble vegetable to your family, so I cannot say whether or not your husband was wrong in correcting you. I do commend you most effusively for introducing your sons to new foods. I am sure they are on their way to being cultured gentlemen.

Best Mealtime Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett



Conversational Faults To Avoid

Cherished readers, The Lady speaks to many people in the course of the week and her hectic social schedule. The best conversationalists have great poise and self-assurance and remember that conversation is a two-way street. Based on my extensive experience speaking with the multitudes (tee-hee) I have compiled a list of faults that one should avoid in seeking to make interesting and pertinent conversation:

Repeating the same story over and over is irritating and implies that one thinks their listeners are not paying attention…or even….lacking intelligence. (Horrors)

Unkindness or unpleasantness are never appropriate. Needless to say, it is never appropriate to speak of ill of those not present.

The conceited person thinks he is most interesting and that everyone wishes to know his opinion on a myriad of topics. The Lady believes correcting others falls into the category of conceit as well as long-winded pomposity.

Self-pity and doom and gloom. The Lady has always said that when someone asks “How are you?” they do not want to hear a litany of problems ranging from having gout, to having financial problems, to the kids performing poorly in school. Private problems should only be discussed with close family or friends.

Words and phrases that add nothing to the conversation. The Lady includes “You know” “I mean” “Listen” “Like” and others.

Name dropping….adds nothing to a conversation. The Lady is doubtful people even know those whose names are bandied about freely in regular conversation.

Evil gossip….it is never well-mannered to spew hurtful rumors or comments (even if true!) The best rule is to only say pleasant things. (None of this “if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me”…unless you are the Dowager Countess of Grantham then you can say whatever you like.)

Best Conversational Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett



When The Lady Was Calm Even Though She Was Shaking Inside

Cherished readers, today’s blog will have less to do with manners and more to do with me needing to talk about what happened this week. Lord Hooper-Brackett and I discussed the situation this morning and he told me he wanted me to write about it.

Lord Hooper-Brackett had a STEMI-type heart attack on Monday and had to have a stent inserted and treatment for the blockage. This happened very suddenly in the morning and the symptoms at the time were vague to start off,  but when he told me that he had pain in his arm, chest, and jaw there was no doubt that he needed to get to the ER. And thankfully, that is what he immediately did…he drove himself to the ER.  We were on the phone and then he told me they were taking him in and he’d call when he could. I remained calm for his sake, because panic doesn’t help anything.

This began the longest hour I’ve ever spent. It is hell to not know what is going on.

An hour later he called to tell me that he had a 90% blockage, they put a stent in, and he was now in recovery. He was surprisingly calm…almost matter of fact. I, too, was calm. It was only when we hung up that the weight of what happened hit me. I broke down privately.

My emotions have been all over the place this week. From fear to thankfulness to relief to worry. And on and on. I spent one day getting upset about all of the what ifs that could have happened. This morning we talked about how I tried to be calm for him and he told me he was trying to be calm for me.

This is the ultimate in putting another at ease: being scared, but not wanting the person you love to be scared. It is needless to say, I am beyond thankful today.

Best Grateful Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett