Miss Manners: My stepmother complains about me to her friends

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Dear Miss Manners: My mother-in-law is a very sociable person. She is also a drug addict.

She quickly makes friends. His friendships are usually short-lived due to his addiction, but while they last they are intense. Her friends tend to see her as a victim; they are very protective of her and want to work things out.

We care about her, but we also know that allowing her to become an addict would be the worst possible thing for her – and for us. We’ll help her with emergency necessities, and give her generous gifts (as part of our family budget, since we’re far from wealthy) for holidays and special occasions, but we also say many no to outrageous demands. She resents me, even though I tend to be more generous than her son, because he bears more resentment towards her.

Did I always understand correctly? Probably not. Have I tried my best to see things from all angles, forgive some hurts and do what is right? Absolutely.

She complains about me to her friends, and I am bombarded with phone calls from strangers accusing me of insensitivity and guilt.

I have no interest in joining in the insults and accusations. There is no point in offering facts to every new passionate facilitator. How to say politely, but with absolute firmness, to the indignant and the self-righteous to mind their own business?

By informing coldly telling them they got the facts wrong, explaining that you must now leave – and hang up the phone.

Timing is critical, as you don’t want to look like you’re hanging up the phone, but neither should you agree to share the actual details with someone who Miss Manners agrees has no right to inquire.

Dear Miss Manners: I was the guest of a group dinner featuring cuisine traditionally eaten with chopsticks. The restaurant served the meal in a family style, with several common dishes in the middle of the table with the intention that diners serve themselves. No serving utensils were provided.

In this context, what is the right way to use the common plates? The concern is, of course, that using one’s own chopsticks to serve from a communal dish is unsanitary.

Restaurants sometimes too forget to put as many seats as there are people, but that does not mean that the last to arrive is supposed to eat with their hands. Miss Manners asks you to ask a passing waiter to serve utensils.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at washingtonpost.com/board. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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