DEAR MISS MANNERS: I went to a bar with my husband to enjoy a cocktail and play some billiards. When we started to play pool, a toddler came over to our table and began playing with the cues, balls, quarters, etc.
We kept politely asking him to quit. After about 10 minutes of this, his father finally came over from across the bar, placed the toddler on a barstool and told him to stay there and watch us play pool.
The father went back to his table and sat down with his back to us. The child got off the barstool and began playing with things again at our table. I went over to the toddler’s father and mother and told them I was concerned for the child’s safety. However, by this point I was very upset and red-faced because I was so angry, and it came across as rude. The parents gave me a dirty look, took the child and didn’t say anything or bother to apologize.
I was astonished that parents would think it’s OK for a toddler to be in a bar, first of all, and second, to be unattended. Do you think I was rude to say something?
GENTLE READER: No, and citing safety is the right way to disguise your annoyance at the nuisance. But it must be said in a tone of concern, and you admit to doing it rudely.
Without commenting on a child’s presence in a bar, Miss Manners acknowledges that there are social settings in which a well-behaved child may have a degree of freedom to roam – for example, an outdoor event where families are picnicking.
In such cases, it is the child’s responsibility not to torture the flora, the fauna or the other customers; it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that the child lives up to these requirements. The latter requires constant line-of-sight contact, or very nearly so. In a less child-friendly setting – the bar – the acceptable distance from parental authority contracts, as does the range of acceptable child behavior.
People in your own position are free to return children who have clearly crossed these lines, if they can manage to do so without sounding like monsters who hate children.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My niece is getting married next week. Several of the people invited responded to her invitation with a guest: “Mrs. Blank and guest.”
The bride found out that some people were not bringing the guest they’d planned, so she deleted the guest and said “you can’t bring anyone.” The bride wants to dictate who people bring.
GENTLE READER: The struggle between inattentive hosts, inconsiderate guests and indescribable brides continues.
Miss Manners must disagree with your implication that only an unreasonable host would exercise any control over her guest list. But she agrees that there are limits. Invitations are properly issued to specific people: not to an unnamed date, houseguest or therapist. It is for this reason that Miss Manners so dislikes “plus one” invitations.
She cannot, however, assail the logic that once a hostess has posted such an invitation, she has ceded her authority to fill the seat. And there is no justification for the rudeness of rescinding an invitation once proffered.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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