Miss Manners: Inquiring minds should keep it simple

April 30

DEAR MISS MANNERS: An old friend, but one I had not kept in touch with for more than 15 years, called to say he’s visiting from the opposite coast and asked if we could get together.

I was delighted to hear from him, and in the course of catching up on each other’s lives and arranging dinner, he inquired about my wife: “So are you and Jane still together?”

Well, neither has left the other for an upgrade; why, just this very morning she yelled at me for giving the dog too many treats. And neither of us has been hit by the proverbial bus.

So the question seemed a bit off-putting. On the other hand, given how fragile relationships and life are, the inquiry doesn’t seem completely inappropriate. Could it have been worded more artfully?

GENTLE READER: Yes. “How is Jane?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It’s my third marriage. Should I have my dad walk me down the aisle?

GENTLE READER: If he doesn’t plead exhaustion from the first two trips.

Miss Manners reminds you that the guests will be aware that his previous attempts to give you away were unsuccessful. But the custom is now so far removed from its original meaning of a bride’s leaving the guardianship of her father for that of a husband that it hardly seems to matter.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I often host play dates at my home with young children and their mothers. The kids all play together while the moms chat. When it is time to end the play date, the mothers often try to make the kids pick up the toys, or the mothers will pick them up themselves.

I would prefer they leave the toys for me and my children to pick up ourselves. For one thing, I am trying to teach my children that when you are hosting, it is your duty to clean up. Secondly, I don’t want to make visiting our house a chore for the children or the parents.

Lastly, we have a very organized, set way we pick up toys. Everything has a specific place. When the kids and parents pick up the toys willy-nilly, it actually makes twice as much work for us because we have to go back and reorganize everything.

I have tried to gently tell the parents that picking up is not required. Some listen, but others are quite insistent on ignoring me and picking everything up incorrectly. What is the best way to go about getting them to leave the picking up for us to do after everyone leaves?

GENTLE READER: “Please let me, it is my pleasure. I’m sure that when you have the play group over, you will want to clean up too. I’m trying to teach Sebastian how to be a good host.”

If you must, you may add “. . . and put everything in its proper place,” but Miss Manners warns you that you will do better acting the gracious hostess and using the “teaching moment” card, than implying, “You’re doing it all wrong!” Your guests will then also be more receptive to taking the hint to host a play date in the future.

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.

2014, by Judith Martin

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