DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude to announce via social networking your acceptance to a (highly competitive) college? How can I tell people my accomplishments while still being humble?
GENTLE READER: This is a good lesson to learn now. Why wait until you get to Highly Competitive U., where everyone is as qualified as you (or whose parents donated a building), to understand how unpleasant bragging is?
But wait. Miss Manners isn't trying to squelch you. On the contrary -- she congratulates you and will offer you a brief course in humble bragging.
Jumping up and down, literally or figuratively, should be done only in the privacy of your home. To everyone but your parents, it would look like gloating.
So don't make an announcement on your social network. Instead, work it in with something mundane. "I'll be working at Yogurt 'n' You this summer -- stop by and say hello -- before going off to Highly Competitive in August," you could post.
(Note: If you're going to Europe this summer, you'll have to find something else.)
Do not -- repeat do not -- go around asking your classmates where they are going. If they ask you, you can admit to it, but add something mildly self-deprecating, such as, "I sure hope they don't find out they made a mistake."
Perhaps you think that's far-fetched. Miss Manners once witnessed freshman orientation at such a college, where the dean, to be funny, said: "One of you shouldn't be here. I'm sorry, but your letter of acceptance was sent by mistake. Please see me afterward. You know who you are."
There was a dreadful silence where the laughter should have been. It appeared as if half the class would have to be carried out on stretchers.
As we know, humility is fleeting. But the appearance of it, which the world appreciates as modesty, can be maintained.
That is the secret to humble bragging: People are infinitely more impressed by discovering for themselves the achievements of others than they are by being told them by the achiever.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend ordered her boyfriend a pizza for his birthday and had it delivered to his office. But he had left for an off-site meeting, so his co-workers notified him. He suggested to them that they have a slice.
Do you think this was rude for them to take a piece, even if offered, before the boyfriend got any of it?
GENTLE READER: What did your friend think would happen to a pizza sent to an office? That the gentleman would devour it at his desk, while his slavering colleagues envied his having such a generous and thoughtful lady in his life?
And if he were away when it arrived, would she think that the pizza should have sat on his desk, first emitting aromas and then turning cold, so it could thrill him upon his return?
Miss Manners notices that you are careful not to blame him for what you imagine is a transgression of manners; indeed, his offer was a graceful one. There was nothing wrong with others accepting this offer. The error was in sending the pizza to the office.
Miss Manners is the pseudonym of Judith Martin. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.