Reading Matters

Letitia Baldridge on bugs, bores and bad questions

If you’ve ever wondered what to do if a bug should appear on the dinner table, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a brand-new edition of “Letitia Baldrige’s New Manners for New Times” that includes some very groovy suggestions on how to handle some of the worst of life’s predicaments with the greatest (or close to it) degree of grace. Baldrige herself, who served as chief of staff for Jackie Kennedy at the White House, died in 2012

Now take that bug, for instance.

“If a little bug crawls out of your salad, pick it up with your napkin, without saying a word, and dispatch it (dead) under the table. Don’t point it our with great glee (or revulsion) to anyone else sitting with you, because you might ruin the rest of the entire dinner for most of the people at your table.”

Or turnoff questions never to ask a single person:

Bet you’re desperate to get married, aren’t you?

Do you think your age is a problem?

Been burned before -- is that it?

For those who insist on being conversational bores, here are some old-fashioned tips.

Don’t ask someone if his marriage is breaking up.

Don’t ask a couple if it’s true their son has AIDS.

Don’t wonder aloud what a mutural friend did to get fired.

This compedium of correctness covers weddings, christenings, engagements, dinner parties, tipping, table manners and a host of other perplexities. But if you can’t afford the $30 price tag, remember that so much of etiquette is merely common sense. As your mother always taught you: Politeness is to do and say the kindest thing in the kindest way.