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Company Matters More Than Food

Judith Martin United Features Sy

Dear Miss Manners: About once a month, my wife and I go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, often with another couple or two who like to order the larger Chinese dinner for four or six with several entrees that are shared.

When I have tried to get one of my preferences included, (I really like beef with green peppers and the spicy Szechwan dishes, for example, but I don’t like sweet and sour stuff, and I don’t want anything that includes broccoli or those tiny shrimp) it’s greeted with, “No, that’s too spicy.” So I opt out of ordering some of this and some of that to share with the group and instead order my own dish.

This has come in for more than its share of discussion, usually involving my character and upbringing. My helpmate of more than 50 years will launch into the “Well, he’s an only child and not used to sharing” speech, ad infinitum.

Is it rude of me to order what I want and selfish to eat what I ordered? Is it polite for others to insist that we share but refrain from ordering anything too spicy or too anything?

If you agree that my withdrawing from participation is neither rude or selfish, I’ll quote you whenever the opportunity arises. If you don’t, I’ll forget I wrote this letter.

Gentle Reader: Why? Have a little trouble sharing criticism?

No, wait, please. Miss Manners was only joking.

Besides, she is about to produce something you can wave around, if you promise to do so politely.

It is true that sharing dishes in Chinese restaurants is a well established custom that many people enjoy, but the chief enjoyment of socializing is supposed to be the company rather than the food. It may not sound like that here, but presumably they could have found people to go out with who shared their tastes.

To go with you and then ignore your tastes would be rude enough. To bully you and then defame you because you object is so awful that Miss Manners cannot imagine why you want to socialize with these people.

Oops, you did mention that one of them is your wife. In the interests of marital harmony, Miss Manners would like to be quoted to your wife as saying merely that she is as mistaken in thinking she needs to apologize for your behavior as she is misguided about the way in which to do it.

Dear Miss Manners: We have just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, and while we were in hospital a close friend took some photos of us and the baby. Before we had the opportunity to have our parents over or send photos to my parents, who live abroad, our friend sent the baby photos to both our parents with a congratulatory card.

That seemed highly inappropriate to us. We felt that we had the first right to either send photos or show off our baby and that our friend stole our thunder. When we raised the issue, our friend said she could not believe we would object. Is there a protocol to sending photos or communicating announcements which offers the key participants some first rights?

Gentle Reader: Did you copyright this child? Is she engaged in a career in which it is advisable to control everything that is said about her so that a useful spin may be put on it?

If not (and even if so), Miss Manners suggests you worry less about your rights over controlling this child than about your responsibility for encouraging friends who are kind enough to take an interest in her.


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

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