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Miss Manners: Hostess does the most-est and wants guests to notice

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Dear Miss Manners: There is a wonderful hostess in my neighborhood who really goes all out in terms of food and ambiance for her guests. She is a mentor to me, inspiring me to host gatherings and reciprocate hospitality.

There is one habit of hers that makes me pause: She tends to announce, to all her guests, just how time-consuming and involved her efforts were. Simple party snacks are actually not so simple: “I pickled the vegetables, which were sourced from a farm stand. I baked the bread from wheat milled locally, and the bologna is from a family recipe. My feet sure hurt from those hours in the kitchen!”

Yes, Miss Manners, the tiny sandwiches that everyone is popping into their mouths took 12 hours of her time, and she wants to make sure that is noted. The responses of her guests are divided between eye rolls and helpful attempts to discourage her toil in the future. My fiancé told her she should check out the deli on the corner.

Could I, or should I, engage her in conversation about these announcements? I feel bad that she is exhausting herself over simple things.

Telling your guests how much trouble they are, even by implication, is not gracious hosting. But then, neither is it acceptable guest behavior to roll one’s eyes or suggest the deli counter.

As this involves a valued mentor, the most selfless thing you can do, if you can stomach it, is to listen to her descriptions so that the other guests don’t have to — and, Miss Manners hastens to add, make sure not to replicate such behavior at your own parties.

Dear Miss Manners: My boyfriend and I have been dating for five years, and we just graduated from college a year ago. We’d like to continue dating for some time before getting married for numerous reasons — including (but not limited to) the cost, the lack of vacation days in our entry-level jobs, and commitments to attend other weddings, including my sister’s. We’re committed to one another; it’s just a matter of timing. However, I feel that this is nobody’s business but our own.

I’m from the South, where relationships that begin in college carry the expectation of an immediate marriage proposal upon graduation. I’m getting very tired of deflecting distant relatives and acquaintances who keep asking (often in a rude and judgmental way), “When are you and X getting engaged?” Firstly, I’d like to be surprised by his proposal, so I genuinely don’t know. But I also feel that it’s rude to ask — in a similar way as asking, “When are you going to get pregnant?” or “Why are you single?”

How should I respond to this question without doubling the rudeness of the inquirer? I’ve been asked repeatedly since age 18 — and I am now an old maid, by Southern standards, at 23.

“We don’t have any immediate plans to become engaged,” to which Miss Manners would append, “but thank you so much for asking” — which she has been given to understand is the Southern way of saying, “so mind your own business.”

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

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