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Meet the Parents

Wednesday, March 16, 2005; Page C11

Dear Miss Manners:

Hi! I wonder if you could advise me as to when parents of adult children who are dating should meet? His want to meet us, and our daughter is confused because he hasn't said he loves her yet (they have been dating for over a year).

There is meeting and Meeting, and Miss Manners is afraid that you have confused the two.

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When a couple have become affianced, or what now passes for such, a portentous Meeting is in order so that each family can size up the other after it is too late to avoid acquiring them as relatives. An informal meeting before that time, as if it were simply a continuation of getting to know the parents of your child's playmates, seems like a good idea.

Dear Miss Manners:

At an apartment-warming I attended, a couple arrived about 30 minutes into the party. Within seconds, the family dog began making love to the female guest's leg. Her date grabbed her because she was struggling to stand.

The hostess said, "Down! Down!" The host said, "No, 'Big Boy!' No!" and tried to pull Big Boy off, without success. A nearby guest then leaned forward and gave the dog's tail a single tug. The dog let out a yelp, dropped to his feet and began inspecting his rear.

The yelp brought the party to a halt. In the silence that followed, the hostess said, "Did you jerk my dog's tail?" The tail-tugger turned red and looked ashamed, but said nothing. The moment passed and the party resumed.

Big Boy walked away. The tail-tugger did, too, in the opposite direction. The female guest later became pregnant, but not because of Big Boy. I don't think anyone handled this well. What do you think?

That you had far too good a time at this party.

Dear Miss Manners:

Is it possible to be so proper that you can become improper? My grandmother, who is a "proper" lady, writes her thank-you notes and sets her table settings exactly the way they should be, but it has all become excessive lately.

She called to thank me for my birthday party, which she paid for; writes thank-you notes for our (and others') thank-you notes; and repeatedly calls during our dinnertime even though I have asked her to call earlier or later because of dinner.

I am very happy to have had a proper grandmother because I now have good manners, and can compose proper thank-yous and conduct myself well in public. I think manners are lacking in most people my age (25) and am often complimented on mine, which delights Grandma to no end. I ask because I am not sure if I simply never noticed her manners or if this is a quirk of becoming older.

It is said that old people sometimes become exaggerated versions of their younger selves. If this is the case, Miss Manners considers you among the luckiest of those whose patience is required to deal with them. Ask around among your friends whose elderly relatives were characterized by less charming traits, and you will soon come to appreciate the burden of too many thanks (as well as to realize that you can put the answering machine on during dinner and return the call later).

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

©2005, Judith Martin


© 2005 The Washington Post Company