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Handle Misjudgement Like A Grown-Up

Judith Martin United Features Sy

Dear Miss Manners: I am 13 years old. When I go into a restaurant, I am usually given a child’s placemat. In other cases, people ask me if I am 10.

I feel offended by this and view it as age discrimination. I clearly look 13 and thus should be treated likewise.

How could I respectfully tell the waiter that I don’t need a child’s placemat or a child’s meal?

Gentle Reader: By handling it in a grown-up manner.

Well, not too grown-up: Most grown ups get all giggly and flattered if they are taken for younger than they are, which Miss Manners finds as silly as you must. And she wishes you wouldn’t pick up that unfortunate grown-up predilection for throwing charges of discrimination around loosely.

However, to act insulted when you are taken for younger is not only as silly as the reverse, but a dead giveaway that you are very young.

In addition, this charge is based on the mistaken notion that adults can read children’s ages accurately if they try. Except for teachers and parents who are around children of approximately your age, adults can no more tell if you are 10 or 13 than you can tell whether they are 41 or 51.

A grown-up thing to say would be, “Excuse me, but I wonder if you would be good enough to give me the regular placemat and menu? The children’s things are charming, but I’m afraid they’re not appropriate.”

Notice the stilted wording. It is there because any adult would notice it, too. The waiter will be startled into realizing that he had wildly underestimated your age.

Dear Miss Manners: I have been studying the way people wear their bow ties with wing-tip tuxedo shirts since someone pointed out to me that I was wearing the tips of my collar over the bow tie as opposed to behind the bow tie. I have since then observed people wearing it both ways. Is there a proper way to wear it?

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners is tempted to say no. She hates the ring-around-the-collar look of a black tie with a wing-tip shirt, which only looks right with the more formal white tie worn with tails.

But she can’t actually claim that it is wrong. Wrong is wearing ruffled shirts, pink ties, collarless shirts with black bands around them or any other of the many ghastly variations one shudders to see these days. Such as putting on a wing-collared shirt and then clipping its wings behind the tie.

Dear Miss Manners: My mother-in-law had been dating the same man for nine years - ever since I started dating my husband.

Last year, they broke up and he has recently married another woman. We attended the ceremony and reception. Mind you, this is the “Grandpa” my kids know. According to him, we are, and will always be his “kids.”

My mother-in-law called it disrespectful and “a slap in the face” for us to attend this event. Was it?

P.S. He is also my spouse’s boss and has helped him to better his life through work and school.

Gentle Reader: He’s your husband’s benefactor and boss? And his mother expects the two of you to snub him?

Miss Manners may be giving the impression that her shock is based on the idea that it is not prudent to snub one’s boss. This is of course true. But from the point of view of etiquette, it is worse to snub someone who has shown private kindness, as this gentleman obviously has.

Practically everyone who has ended a marriage or a long-term, family-like relationship is annoyed to find that it is easier to introduce someone into a family than to expel that person for less-than-criminal behavior. But relatives often form their own ties with these people and those ties may be more enduring.

Your husband has long had his own deep relationship with this gentleman. It is too late for his mother to require that someone she put forward as a father figure should now be demoted to the non-status of mother’s ex-beau.

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

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