Q. My soon-to-be-married son refuses to call his fiancee's parents Mom and Dad. He claims they aren't his parents, which is true, of course. His future in-laws do not want to be called by their first names. Things are at an impasse, with my son avoiding the issue whenever possible by not calling them anything. When necessary, he uses Mr. and Mrs. with the surname. This doesn't seem friendly to me. Any suggestions?
A. That impasse you describe runs across the country, and therefore a great many married people address their parents-in-laws as Um. The truth is there is no satisfactory solution. Those who use some variation of "Mom" and "Dad" are forever having to explain, to third parties such as their own spouse, whom they are talking about. Some people consider first names too familar and Mr. and Mrs. too distant. Other unsatisfactory solutions your son might consider are combining the parental title with the given name or surname.
Thus you get "Mother Agnes" or "Father Jones," which reek of convent school.
The compromise Miss Manners prefers is to let the older generation choose, on the grounds that whatever discomfort your son feels about their preferences, he can make up for by some day imposing his on his unwilling son-in-law.
Q. How does one properly serve chocolate eclairs for a bridge party dessert?
A. With enough equipment for people to eat them properly. Chocolate eclairs are too good to waste on clothes, upholstery or bridge hands, however poor. Everyone should be issued plate, fork and napkin with the eclair and probably also a more stable surface than a lap on which to cut it.
Q. In a boss-and-wife relationship with the employes (35 female, 5 male), after the boss has introduced her and she treats then graciously but not gushy, who takes the next steps toward further friendship? It has always been my feeling, and my husband's, until recently, that being too friendly with employes clouds one's objectivity. Lately, my husband seems to think that if there are any problems with them, it's because we haven't been sociable enough. I am open to a little more than just greetings, but I don't want to push myself on them. Should I initiate further friendship or should I let them voluntarily after it? Could you help with the boss' wife's position?
A. The chief thing to remember about the boss' wife's position is that she is the boss' wife. You may be sure that the employes remember it -- or if they forget it when overcome with jolly sociability, they remember it when they wake up in the middle of the night, some hours later.
You must therefore be aware that they are unlikely to take the initiative in advancing the intimacy of social relations with you, and also that they will feel obiliged to go along with whatever you suggest. It is not pleasant for people to have close social relationships where there cannot be equality. For the sale of the employes, as well as your own, Miss Manners suggests not pushing the friendliness beyond office-related social activities.