Q: Which is more proper in addressing a mixed couple in a bar or restaurant:
“What can I get you guys to drink?”
“What can I get you folks to drink?”
“What can I get you and your lady friend to drink?”
“What can I get you and your man friend to drink?”
“Does either of you have a drink preference?”
A: The only thing wrong with that last suggestion is the assumption that people go into a bar not caring what they drink.
How about just “What would you like to drink?” with the plural assumed?
Miss Manners fails to understand the dilemma here — or even the meaning of “mixed couple” — but feels certain that it cannot be good. The relationship of customers to one another is none of the server’s business or concern. It is not likely to affect their drink order.
Q: My daughter is beautiful. I’m not saying this to brag; it’s simply a fact.
She is just shy of her fifth birthday and loves to dress up. When we go out, it’s not unusual for strangers to comment on her looks.
I’m not sure how to respond. I feel awkward saying “thank you,” because aside from the genetic component, I feel her looks are entirely a matter of chance, not a result of any action I took.
I also hesitate to emphasize her looks at all. While I certainly don’t want her to think she’s ugly, I also don’t want her growing up thinking being pretty is the highest compliment she can receive.
Is there a polite way to both accept the compliment but also put emphasis on her other more important attributes?
With children this age, I know she’s always listening. I want to model good behavior for her, but also to make sure she knows what’s really important.
A: A simple “thank you” is all that is required. Miss Manners begs you not to add, “But you should see her brain!”
Redirecting well-meaning compliments from strangers in any meaningful and polite way is a fruitless endeavor. Put the effort to better use by teaching your daughter at home about the importance of education and kindness over appearance. Perhaps it is more than one can reasonably hope, but a lifetime of thoughtful upbringing by her parent should speak more than wayward compliments from strangers.
Q: Are there etiquette guidelines surrounding sitting or standing when talking with someone who uses a wheelchair?
At a reception, I was introduced to a petite woman who uses a chair, and we had an interesting conversation. But I stand 6 feet 2 and felt uncomfortable towering over her. There was no place nearby for me to sit, and it seemed inappropriate to crouch (so we would be eye-to-eye), because that is what I would do with a child.
A: While Miss Manners appreciates your sensitivity, she feels certain that crouching is better than towering over the woman and having both of you shouting and straining your necks.
If you are worried that the lady might take offense, ask her permission first. She might even be able to come up with a solution that is satisfactory for both of you.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.