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Dear Miss Manners: Bus drivers, maitres d', store managers, and other figures of limited authority who have the civilizing function of being "manners police" take this much less seriously now than in the past. Some pointedly avoid it, perhaps out of fear of lawsuits or due to lack of competition for their business. But their leadership is still necessary: The public brings frayed nerves, lack of discipline and cultural differences to public situations; unpleasantness, confusion and hesitation are the result.
Dear Miss Manners: With all the mixed-up families that exist today, I have a question on what people should be called. I am the grandfather of five fine kids and I remarried after a divorce. No one has a problem with calling me Grandpa, but what is a reasonable title for my current wife? She has been married to me for about 10 years and has seen each of the grandchildren born and raised, but no one knows for sure what label to attach to her. (The original "grandmother" lives near by.)
Dear Miss Manners: It appears that humankind responds just as poorly in an electronic bar as in a conventional one. I am sure you are aware that some of the Internet service providers accommodate their subscribers with a series of "chat rooms" in which to congregate, meet, exchange ideas and so on; and that some of these are deliberately designed for those wishing for a particular result - to wit, finding a physically intimate playmate for an hour or two. (Note, no one deceives himself into believing that an emotional attachment will result.) One party enters a chat room, reads profiles and communicates with prospects. Here is where I wish you to enter the picture.
Dear Miss Manners: I'm in my late '20s, newly married, and as time allows, my husband and I enjoy having dinner guests. I am simply looking for their company and have no intention of asking them to bring part of the meal. Our gatherings are rarely formal but it is still my instinct to think that if I am inviting someone to my house, it is impolite to assume that the guest should have to help with the meal. Sometimes the wife offers to bring something. I usually graciously decline.
Dear Miss Manners: At my high school, there is a dance to which the girls ask the guys, and about a month and a half ago, I asked a friend to go and he said yes. At the same time, a girlfriend of mine asked a guy that both of us had a crush on (she first asked me if it was OK) and he said yes, as well. My friend's date is now my boyfriend.
Dear Miss Manners: I hesitated to tell a friend of 15 years that I had become engaged to a wonderful man and she learned of it from a third party. Since I began seeing my fiance 18 months ago, my friend has made clear her envy and despair, and I waited in vain for any sign of genuine warmth about my happiness.
Dear Miss Manners: Every morning, between 6:30 and 6:45, my neighbor says goodbye to her family by honking the horn two to four times as she drives up the street. This is also their way of saying hello and goodbye throughout the day. My bedroom faces the street, and because of inadequate sound-proofing (which would be cost-prohibitive right now), along with a sleeping problem I'm having, I hear this even with the windows closed. Custom-made earplugs don't work for me.
Dear Miss Manners: How can one handle the situation of two cars stopped in the middle of the street, while the occupants of both carry on a conversation? Or of one car stopped in the traffic lane while a pedestrian walks to the center of the street to talk to the driver?
Dear Miss Manners: Due to a combination of a semi-idiot mother who is, to this day, convinced that a show of any intelligence on the part of a woman is a sure sign of homosexuality; and complete-idiot classmates, who felt the same way, my childhood and adolescence were pretty much unalloyed hell. As a result, I tend to get testy, now that I am a 29-year-old adult woman, when a waiter or bartender "cards" me. I hate being mistaken for a teenager, since I hated being a teenager.
Dear Miss Manners: Several of us ladies at work all have the same complaint about our grown-up children (mine are in college, the others are divorced, single adults of a second marriage or single, living on their own): They dine and dash. They never bring anything, offer to help clean up or invite us to dinner. When confronted, all of them said they are guests and guests don't help.
Dear Miss Manners: For some 30 years, I have been in charge of publicity for an organization which sponsors an elegant ball each year, at which time the daughters of our various members are presented to the assembled guests and members. How the names of the parents should be stated is driving me crazy.
Dear Miss Manners: I am 40 years old and my girlfriend of more than a year, who is 43, staunchly refuses to introduce me as her boyfriend. She uses the excuse of it sounding juvenile. I feel it is a matter of respect - that I am someone important in her life. At times when introducing me, she has used the "F" word - "friend." I feel that is derogatory, as when a female calls a male just a friend, it means nothing. I've asked her to think of a term other than boyfriend that she would be comfortable with, but she hasn't.
Dear Miss Manners: While I am fit and what we used to call "well preserved," I look my age - 50. What do you feel is the motive behind - and the appropriate response to - a stranger's greeting me as "young lady," as in the grocer's handing me the bag saying, "Here you go, young lady"? Can these people - all men, so far - think that this is flattering? I find it not only disingenuous but downright patronizing and somehow demeaning. Am I being overly sensitive? Do I say anything? Suffer in silence? Consider it a polite alternative to "Hey, you"? It is curious that these men are very near my own age. Curious, too that this remark has had the singular and immediate effect of making me feel older! Gentle Reader: Yes, they think this is flattering, and no, Miss Manners does not think you are overly sensitive in finding it demeaning. Flattery has to be plausible in order to work. It also has to be flattering. Pretending to mistake a lady's age by an entire generation does not meet the plausibility test. It insultingly assumes that the lady is so eager to deny her maturity that she will grasp gratefully at any preposterous remark.
Dear Miss Manners: Because my dog is quite protective and does not take kindly to being approached by his fellow canines, I try to clear the path when I meet my neighbors and their beloved pets, so they can continue on safely. If I can't, I put my pet in a controlled position and warn them their dog may not become quick friends with mine. However, these warnings go unheeded as the neighbor will claim, "My dog is Mr. Friendly." I need a proper phrase or approach to keep me on a friendly basis with my neighbors, yet instill upon them the severity of their not heeding my warnings. Time is short and distances not conducive to quiet conversation or knowing looks. I don't want to appear bad-tempered, yet must prevent a possibly disastrous encounter.
Dear Miss Manners: I am a student who is lesbian, and I'm attracted to an older professor. I asked around and heard that she is bisexual, just broke up with a guy and is not involved right now. So I volunteered to be a student representative on a committee she's on, in order to get to know her better.
Dear Miss Manners: I have a dear friend of 28 years, with whom I have not been physically intimate for at least 15 years. Although I had invited her to visit me at a time of her own choosing (intending, of course, for her to stay in one of my guest bedrooms), I wasn't sure when she was coming and invited other dear friends, a married couple, members of a church I used to attend.
Dear Miss Manners: I enjoy my workplace (I am a college student in my first job), where the people are friendly. We celebrate birthdays, weddings, births, etc. My boss's unmarried, teenage daughter recently gave birth and a collection was started to buy a baby present. My boss does not know about it, and from what I gather, the relationship between her and her daughter is very strained. The daughter walked out of her parents' house.
Dear Miss Manners: At a hen party where I was an outsider, the hostess and her friends were very welcoming. A neighbor began talking about her favorite elder with the warm fuzzies people usually relate about those whose memories are cloaked in innocence and goodwill. It came out that the grandmother was born to a family with slaves. Well, the neighbor didn't have any more control over this than I did, so I didn't have a problem with it. In fact, I have always found it annoying when people whine on and on about slavery as though they had experienced it themselves. We all know what it did and, finally, we can start undoing some of the damage, so let's move on. Right? But I wasn't ready to hear my neighbor declare how happy the slaves were! If that wasn't bad enough, the plantation was owned by a master whose surname is the same as mine, although my family was not in bondage in the same state.
Dear Miss Manners: I think that cyberspace encourages deceit with pseudonyms or cryptic names and addresses. Freedom from responsibility encourages some to be irresponsible. Several times I have been discouraged from participating in online discussion forums by the excessive and offensive statements of one or more participants. What is missing is a good old-fashioned editor to keep those noms de plume in check, or a host who is selective in invitations.
Dear Miss Manners: I went out with a man who insisted on buttering my bread, cutting my meat and even feeding me a little during dinner. When I rejected his offers, he was offended and did not understand. Recently, I went out with this man and his new girlfriend. He offered her the same gestures, and she appreciated them and let him do all for her.