Dear Miss Manners: Lately, the employees at my local supermarket have become overly friendly. At a time when rudeness is an epidemic, it seems odd to complain about this, but it seems to me that this newfound friendliness rings a bit insincere.
As I push my cart up and down the aisles, each employee - from the stock boy to the produce man to the fellow mopping the floor - stops what he or she is doing and says hello or inquires how I am. I find myself trying to avoid these people to escape their queries.As if that were not annoying enough, when I arrive at the checkout stand, I am subjected to a running commentary by the clerk on the contents of my shopping basket, ranging from his or her estimation of which meal each item is intended for, to whether my purchase of plastic cups reveals a disdain for dishwashing.
It wasn't always this way, so the emergence of this familiarity seems more a management policy than a spontaneous burst of amicability.
This begs the question of whether we can legislate politeness, as it seems this establishment has tried to do, and if so, doesn't that dilute its sincerity?
Gentle Reader: Sure; that's the idea.
Trust Miss Manners, sincerity is highly overrated.
It was probably some sincere expression of feeling from an employee to a customer (such as, "Will you please stop feeling up the eggplants and just pick one? How about that one? It looks just like you") that prompted the management to demand that the staff act "friendly."
That can be a nuisance, too, Miss Manners agrees, although less of one than sincere surliness.
But why do both you and the management seem to think that the choice must be limited to sincerity and friendliness? What about professionalism? That would include simple greetings and a pleasant "Will that be all?" but not a critique of your purchases - which, come to think of it, would be annoying even from a close friend.
Dear Miss Manners: My oldest son got married (his mother and I are divorced) and I was shocked and hurt to see my ex-wife's boyfriend dressed in a tuxedo. I was under the impression that tuxes were to be worn by the best man, groomsmen, the bride's father and the groom's father.
Months later, I asked my son about his mother's friend wearing a tux and he said he was also shocked. On the day of the wedding, my son did not say anything to his mother, as he did not want to cause problems.
This brings me to why I am writing you today. My second son is to be married next year. Should I say something about my ex-wife's boyfriend wearing a tux to this wedding? I do not want to cause a problem for my son and his new bride.
Gentle Reader: Miss Manners is sorry for the oversight, but no costume has been designed to distinguish the boyfriend of the bridegroom's mother from those more closely related to the wedding party. She doesn't even want to imagine what such an outfit would look like.
A wedding is not supposed to be a costume party. If it is formal, all the gentlemen present may wear formal dress, regardless of their legal or emotional claims on the participants. If you wish to make trouble with your former wife, Miss Manners is afraid you will have to find another point of contention.