Advice | Miss Manners: A stranger’s T-shirt infuriated me

Dear Miss Manners: I was leaving the gym when I saw someone wearing a T-shirt that infuriated me. It read, in bold letters, “Eat the Fragile.”

This made my blood boil, particularly in today’s climate, as there are so many groups targeted with hateful, inflammatory slogans. I thought about the elderly, the disabled, the minority groups that deal with this sort of thing constantly. I wish I had been forthright enough to comment in some way that might have made this individual think, but I was too angry to speak in a civil manner, so I simply left. What could I have said?

Clearly, this T-shirt was an attempt at humor, arguably even satire. Perhaps it actually meant the opposite of what it said. That it did not land with you is understandable. Miss Manners does not get it, either. But pointing out insensitivity to someone you already believe to be insensitive seems a waste of time.

For the sake of your own blood pressure, Miss Manners urges you not to take so-called humorous shirts at their literal word. Half the people who sport them have forgotten they are wearing them, anyway. We already have more than enough intended insults on the streets; we need not go looking for more.

Dear Miss Manners: My 29-year-old, fully independent daughter recently told me that she does not wish to hear negative comments from me: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I am the retired senior director of a large multimillion-dollar firm with two postgraduate degrees. I successfully managed hundreds of employees over the years and undertook extensive, complaint-free personnel management, staff development and mentoring. I have a forthright personality and am used to speaking my mind directly with family, due to years of having to be politically correct in the office. I raised my daughter to be a strong, successful career woman. I am at a loss now that I must be politically correct all the time.

I know you will probably tell me I am in the wrong, but as I am now in my late 60s, I am tired of having to self-censor. I have done it for so many years and in so many professional and social settings. My daughter was one of my only “filter-free” outlets. Do I just suck it up, smile, shut my mouth and stop being me? Or do I need to pay a therapist to listen to my invective?

Not wanting to be a punching bag for bottled-up negativity, Miss Manners notes, hardly qualifies as censorship. Perhaps your daughter is so successful because she learned from you how to maintain cordial business relationships. Now she is doing you one better by recognizing that family deserves the same respect, if not — brace yourself — even more.

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

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