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Side Trip Is Forgivable - Just This Once

By Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: A delightful young lady and I are in dispute about a matter which has caused a major and perhaps irreparable rift in our previously excellent relationship.

We had traveled out of town on vacation and were out to dinner in a wonderful seaside restaurant. Shortly after we were seated, she announced that the sunset was beautiful and she wanted to go out and walk on the sand to watch it.

She asked me to go with her, stating that the waiter would save our table and keep the food we had just ordered ready until we returned. I didn’t want to leave the restaurant like that, so she said she would go by herself, leaving me to sit alone at the table. To this I objected strenuously. Although she said it would be only five minutes, I was quite sure that it would be 20.

She thinks that I was inexcusably rude to object to her proposed actions and that I should have permitted her to go. I think that it is utterly unacceptable to leave one’s dinner partner for sightseeing.

Presumably, one of us is right. What do you think?

Gentle Reader: Running off to enjoy the seaside sunset is not in itself rude unless one is unfair to the restaurant, either by holding the table beyond a reasonable time or by subsequently complaining about the warmed-over food. So the etiquette question Miss Manners identifies here is whether the young lady should have persisted with her romantic idea once she discovered that you did not consider it romantic.

She should not have persisted, but it would have been awkward for her to retreat without seeming to sulk. One solution would have been to say, “Oh, I guess it was a silly idea”; another would have been to take a quick peek outside and then return to the table apparently satisfied.

Leaving for 20 minutes was not, Miss Manners admits, a good solution - but perhaps forgivable this once in an otherwise delightful young lady.

Dear Miss Manners: My fiance is a single parent, as am I. One day we had all five kids with us and were on our way to a neighborhood video game room. While riding along in my car my fiance’s 8-year-old son, Jr., says “Why can’t it just be me, Vicky, Andy, Christie, Dad and nobody else going to the game room?”

He repeated this twice without a response from Dad. The only ones in the car that were not mentioned were me and my 5-year-old daughter.

Needless to say I was hurt by this because I provided the transportation and agreed earlier to pay for everyone’s “fun” at the game room.

I was hurt most because Dad did nothing to correct Jr.’s rude behavior. He even explained it away, saying that I was being overly sensitive.

Am I the only one who feels Jr. was rude and should have apologized or at least been “put in an 8-year-old’s place”?

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners does not approve of rude children either, but she approves even less of putting 8-year-olds in their place. Particularly when it is such a painful place.

That your future stepchildren should learn to treat you and your children with respect and kindness is indeed a lesson that should be taught. This is in the interests of the entire family-to-be, including the children themselves, and their father, who, Miss Manners agrees, is shirking his duty.

But could you manage a bit more sympathy and a little less self-congratulation? What is the car or the gameroom money to a child compared to the realization that he has to share his father?

You should be courting these children, which will not be easy. At the time of the remark, you could have replied that you love being with the whole family, although you understand that there are times when different family members will want to be alone together.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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