DEAR MISS MANNERS - While attending a newly released, uproariously funny movie, I apparently had the audacity to laugh out loud and make some general "aside" comments (of the "That's funny" genre). When the film was nearly completed, the woman sitting in front of me turned round, looked me in the eye, and said, "Will you please be quiet."
I need to know whose behavior was out of line. Mine? Is it considered improper to laugh and outwardly enjoy a comedy? Or was it this woman who, by her admonishment, took the joy out of the remainder of the picture for me? If it is she, what should the proper reaction to such a comment be? Saying nothing (as I did) or offering some sort of defense?GENTLE READER - You are attempting to pull a fast one on Miss Manners here, by defining talking as "outward enjoyment." No, you are not allowed to talk during movies. There is a big difference between laughing and saying, "That's funny," which is superfluous at best.
The proper reaction would have been a regretful smile (furrowed brow and furrowed chin, with the turned-up mouth squeezed in between) with the mouthed (but not even whispered) word, "Sorry." This would have allowed you to convey the idea that you never intended to be a nuisance, but just got carried away with the fun of it all. Thus it would not only have served as an apology but have absolved you from that feeling that ruined the rest of the picture for you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - I am hopelessly in love with my doctor, who I doubt is aware of my feelings for him. I have visited his office three times in the past year. I was genuinely ill but am now fully recovered.
Miss Manners, I have never felt this way for any man before. Although as far as I am aware he is single, I know that there is a code of ethics whereby doctor-patient relationships are considered sacred, and I would do nothing to jeopardize his career.
I really want to get to know this man better outside his office environment. However, I am quite a shy person and don't want to seem vulgar. How should I deal with this situation?
GENTLE READER - Miss Manners is searching her mind for some ethical point that can get her out of answering this question: She is afraid that the cure might be worse than the problem - or something like that.
That is because the only way to avoid transgressing against doctor-patient ethics is to sever the professional relationship. You will then be at liberty to find an alternative way to meet this man - through a mutual acquaintance, volunteering in some organization he is active in, getting active in some organization you can ask him to volunteer for and so on.
But are you really sure you want to do this? He may or may not turn out to be interested in you, but a good doctor is hard to find.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - I have a problem when my family goes to visit with friends of ours. You see, they have a daughter who is around 11, and she still likes to play. The thing is, I'm almost 14 and I have passed the "playing stage."
I have a great time with her when we sit around and talk or play cards or something, but not when she suggests that we "pretend" we're teenagers or running a home.
She is pretty sensitive, and I don't want to hurt her feelings. How can I let her know that I just don't know how to play anymore?
GENTLE READER - While she appreciates the delicacy of your feeling, Miss Manners doesn't understand why you can't choose to play teenagers with her. You are, after all, clearly the authority, in this situation, on what teenagers do, and thus free to explain to her that playing teenagers consists of sitting around talking or playing cards.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - Is it bad manners to invite only one child of a family to a birthday, even if our child doesn't play or associate with the other children of that family?
The parents of these children were very upset, but we feel we should not be obligated to invite people to a party when they are no more than acquaintances of the child the party is for. My wife is very upset, and this has wrecked a friendship.
GENTLE READER - Miss Manners is prepared to agree with you that children entertain their friends - usually of the same age - at birthday parties, rather than having to entertain the younger or older siblings of their friends and the children of their parents' friends. But you must promise her that the invitations were not made in such a way as to trample on the other children's feelings. If there was any "I'm giving a party and you can't come" going on, she will switch to requesting an apology.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - Is there a polite way to ask to pay for our own motel room while visiting relatives in another city? Once before we went there, and when we attempted to pay for our room, the motel clerk said it was paid for and they had been instructed not to accept any argument about it. This time there will be more of us coming (by invitation), and we would rather pay for our rooms if we can avoid making an issue out of it.
GENTLE READER - Competition in paying bills is intended to show generosity and consideration. Only when active sabotage is practiced does it become unseemly.
Victory belongs to the person who claims it first. Thus, persuading the motel clerk to overthrow your relatives' arrangements would not be polite. But getting to the motel in advance, with instructions to give you the bill, would be considered fair.
C) 1989 United Feature Syndicate Inc.