Q: A lot of my friends are starting to have kids, and whereas their first priority is definitely taking care of their children, they still make time to hang out, which is really touching.
However, when I pick them up, a lot of times they prefer to sit in the back seat next to the car seat of their (usually sleeping) child instead of up front with me. This makes me feel like their cab driver instead of a friend hanging out with them.
Is this something I should be “sucking up” and going with, or would it be OK for me to communicate this to them? And if this is something I should be communicating to them, how do I approach it?
A: Convincing new parents that their babies will be fine without them is a fruitless task.
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But with any luck, this is a short-term problem. Miss Manners is confident that most of these parents will soon outgrow this phase and want to sit up front for some adult conversation.
Until then, however, you are probably better off being annoyed by being alone in front, than by elbows — or worse — in your face while driving. No doubt the offending parent would be constantly reaching back to check on the child, give out bottles, and retrieve toys in the hilarious game of “Uh-oh! It dropped.”
In the meantime, however, if you want to get benevolent revenge, next time the parent is driving, you can ask to sit in the back with the child to “keep her company.” The parent will either be ecstatic at your enthusiasm for the child, or your point will be driven home. Literally.
Q: I was at a friend’s house and noticed a piece of thread and a hair on my black pants.
What should I do? Pick it off and drop it on my friend’s carpeting? Or just leave it there till I get home?
A: Is there no garbage receptacle? This would be Miss Manners’ first choice for disposal of the hair and thread. If not, to whom do they belong?
Regardless, a show should not be made of their disposal. But if there is no obvious place for discarding them and you believe them to belong to your friend, Miss Manners will allow you to discreetly return them to their assumed origin.
Q: When is the appropriate time frame after a proposal to throw an engagement party?
A: An increasing number of gentlemen seem to think that the proposal itself should be a surprise party and make it as public as possible, rather than a private moment for the couple.
That nullifies the traditional intent of the engagement party, which is to announce an engagement. (Yes, really — no matter how many people believe its purpose is to open a fundraising season.)
But Miss Manners has long since lost that battle, with every step of the courtship now posted on social media. She would at least request that it be held closer to the proposal than to the wedding.
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.