DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a man and woman eat at a restaurant, who should enter a booth first and slide over? The man would enter a car or boat first, if it were to be entered only from one side, and thus experience the inconvenience of sliding over. However, a man walks on the street side to protect the lady from unpleasantness from the street. That logic would put the lady in the booth first, with the man on the outside.
GENTLE READER: Assuming that the restaurant is not unpleasant, the car-boat rule applies — although, as with transportation, professional manners substitute rank for gender.
That can be tricky, as a subordinate might not want to slide in first if there were a danger of leaving the boss feeling snubbed. If you believe that your companion — be it your boss or your date — will not understand your intentions, Miss Manners suggests being explicit: “Let me just slide over so you don’t have to.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My social circle and I have reached the age where our parents are starting to pass away. When a friend loses a parent, but there is no significant other or child involved, I know exactly how to address the sympathy card and envelope. But if someone is married and has a family, what then?
For instance, if someone’s mother dies, and she was also a mother-in-law and grandmother, does that need to be noted? Or is the card just for the immediate family member?
I have wound up sending cards addressed to the family as a whole, and writing things inside like, “Dear Bob, Carol, Ted, Alice, Jimmy and Sally: So sorry about the passing of your mother/mother-in-law/grandma,” but that seems far too unwieldy. Should I send separate cards? Limit it to the offspring only?
GENTLE READER: The principal mourner — a spouse or partner, then an oldest child, then a parent, then a sibling — is important for many reasons. One of these is being the recipient of the condolence letter, who can be asked to convey the writer’s condolences to the rest of the family. In addition, there is often a family member designated to handle funeral arrangements — and adjudicate disagreements — in the name of the principal mourner.
Miss Manners would think you would also want to write a condolence letter to the relative with whom you have the closest connection, although you can ask that it be conveyed to the others. In any case, your sympathy should be expressed to other relatives at the funeral.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a woman needs to wear both a nametag and a piece of jewelry, such as a brooch, what is the correct placement for each?
GENTLE READER: The French word for looking as if you do not own a mirror — deshabille — does not carry the same unpleasant connotations as the English word “unkempt.”
But the latter is, in Miss Manners’ experience, more likely to capture correctly the impression you are likely to leave, should you attempt to wear both items closely together. When donning a nametag, the sensible woman adjusts her jewelry, moving brooches to a symmetrical position, or pocketing items that cannot be reconciled.