DEAR MISS MANNERS: A guy I just started dating took me out to dinner for my birthday on our fourth date. He raised his glass and made a toast in my honor.
I chimed in during the toast to say something nice about him as well. He said that I should not have interrupted the toast. I suggested that correcting etiquette is also not proper form. Can you help us?
GENTLE READER: There were three breaches of etiquette by Miss Manners’ count. You interrupted your date while he was speaking. He admonished you. And you admonished him.
Assuming that the evening did not end with a fourth, unreported breach — for example, his drink on your dress — and that a fifth date is therefore a possibility, Miss Manners prescribes apologies all around.
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Clouds over this shower
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation for my niece’s baby shower, where the hosts listed are her 7- and 2-year-old daughters. This means her daughters will be the ones to run any shower games and to open each gift for their mother.
Her 7-year-old (4 years old at that time) was allowed to do that at her bridal shower. It was very annoying and time-consuming. Is this the trend now for parties, allowing the kids to be the hostesses?
GENTLE READER: The practice of using a party as a stage for one’s children to bore the guests is not, Miss Manners notes, new.
And there is certainly a trend toward misunderstanding the duties of a host, which include inviting and entertaining the guests, not focusing on being the recipient of gifts. Etiquette sets no minimum age, but does require that a host understand, not to mention fulfill, her duties. It also prohibits her from throwing a shower for herself, or even agreeing to one when it is not her first child.
Don’t decline until you’re invited
DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of the people in our office (a second career for me, where everyone is 20 years younger) is getting married next fall. I have picked up some indications that this individual may feel obligated to invite everyone from the office.
While I would be honored and delighted to be invited, I know that in this case the guest list is limited. I would not want to displace another guest who is more deserving.
Is there any tactful way to pre-emptively handle this situation? I thought of taking the individual aside and explaining all of this, but I don’t think that would be “correct,” especially because it is possible I’ve misread the situation entirely. Is it better to politely decline the invitation with some made-up excuse, or just cheerfully attend?
GENTLE READER: There is no correct way to decline an invitation that has not been issued, even if you feel that accepting would place undo hardship on your host. Should you be invited, Miss Manners suggests that you not explain your reason for declining, as the assertion that an invitation was not made wholeheartedly is not a flattering one. She also expects that you will not feel offended if the invitation does not materialize. If it does, you may treat it as sincere and accept if you wish.
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.
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