A good friend and I had gone out for dinner and then to a local bar for drinks; our plan for the evening was to chat and catch up on each other’s lives. An acquaintance of hers happened to be there and joined us at our table. My friend introduced me, and there were a few moments of pleasant small talk.
Then this man proceeded to angle his body toward my friend, stare at her, touch her on the arm, caress her face — for all the world behaving as if they were on a date! When he went to the restroom, I pointed this out to my friend, who insisted that “he’s not hitting on me; he acts like that toward everyone.” (She did seem genuinely surprised to find out later that I had been right.)
While my friend continued to include me in the conversation, her acquaintance did not. I endured this man’s behavior for some time, finally making an excuse to leave as gracefully as I could. I did this with a smile on my face, and neither one of them knew (until I discussed it with my friend the next day) that I had been angry.
I’m now wondering if there is anything I could have said or done, within the realm of polite conduct, to make it clear to the man that his conduct was unpleasant to me. I don’t want to be rude in these situations — especially as I expect it would be construed as jealousy or “sour grapes” — but I also feel that making a polite excuse and heading home only rewards the man for his rudeness. While my evening is ruined, he gets exactly what he wants — to be alone with the woman he’s after. What should I do next time?
GENTLE READER: There is no need for you to make an excuse when you have already been excluded. Just make a graceful exit, saying, with as much good humor as you can muster, “You two seem to have a lot to talk about, so I’ll leave you.”
This should be addressed to both of them. If you are not urged to stay and the conversation opened to include you, and you still end up going home, Miss Manners trusts that you will know with whom you really should be upset for deserting you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I play role-playing games (like Dungeons and Dragons), and I always show up with snacks for everyone. Nine times out of 10, the other guys fail to bring anything, and what they have is for personal consumption. What is the polite way to play?
GENTLE READER: With this crowd, Miss Manners recommends after dinner.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.
, by Judith Martin