Judith Martin, better known by the pen name Miss Manners, is an American journalist, author, and etiquette authority. 

Beginning in 1978, Martin commenced writing an advice column, which is now distributed three times a week by Universal Uclick and carried in more than 200 newspapers worldwide. In the column, she answers etiquette questions contributed by her readers and writes short essays on problems of manners, or clarifies the essential qualities of politeness. 

In the age of COVID-19 nerves are fried, fuses are short and tempers are easily lost. To navigate these tough times we need to restore good manners. Taking a cue from Miss Manners here are 10 pieces of advice from SFGN: 

1. HOW SHOULD WE GREET PEOPLE? 

Avoid the handshakes, choose a phrase like "I'm so happy to see you/meet you, would love to shake hands but let's wait until 2021." 

2. ARE YOU AFRAID THEY WILL GET OFFENDED? 

Then say: "I would normally shake your hand but at the moment I will not." 

3. SHOULD I ATTEND A SOCIAL EVENT? 

Communication is the key. Don't be afraid to ask for more details about an event you have been invited to: is it outdoors or indoors? The number of people attending, is the food to be shared off a buffet, what is the mask protocol, how can social distancing be kept. 

4. HOW TO SAY NO 

The best way to decline is to say: "Thank you for the invitation, I would love to come but right now I will take a rain check and look forward to seeing you in the future.” 

5. WHAT IF SOMEONE LUNGES FOR A HUG? 

Clasp your hands in front of you (do not jump back) offer a bow or a nod, say something funny like: “I'm keeping my hands to myself." 

6. WHAT IF FAMILY ASKS TO VISIT? 

Honesty is the best approach. Just say: “We are very cautious at the moment, we are trying not to expose ourselves to people. Let's wait a little longer, hopefully this too shall pass.” 

7. CAN YOU ASK SOMEONE TO WEAR A MASK? 

For hired help or services like plumbers, electricians, cleaning ladies, etc:  greet them outside the house and if they do not have a mask ask them:  "Do you mind wearing a mask while inside?"  

Have a few spare masks ready and offer them one. 

8. WHAT ABOUT FRIENDS?  

Again be honest: “You know I am a bit paranoid about COVID. I would feel more comfortable, for both our sake, if you put on a mask.” 

9. WHAT ABOUT A TOTAL STRANGER? 

Walk away, avoid a confrontation that can escalate, keep your distance and wear your mask. 

10. HOW MUCH TO TIP? 

Essential workers are risking virus exposure to do their jobs. Many in the service and hospitality industry are hurting therefore we should, according to our financial situation, tip to the point of pain. 15% or 20% doesn't really cut it right now. Starting at 40% isn't out of the question. If you cannot afford it at least do not undertip, and always thank them profusely. 

We went to sleep in one world and woke up in a different one. We have to adjust if we want to be part of a healthy society once again. For us to survive, we have to change. 

BE SAFE, BE HEALTHY, WEAR A MASK, KEEP YOUR DISTANCE.


Pier Angelo was born in Italy, moved to England at the age of 17 and learned English at the Nelson School of English. He attended college and graduate school in Manhattan. In 2009 he founded SFGN with Norm Kent. Now he’s retired with his husband Tom and his Affenpinscher Cabbage. He still enjoys writing his column Off The Wall for SFGN.


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