Q. I am having a dinner party, strictly for couples, and there are 18 people invited. My question is, how do I set up the eating arrangement? We will have two tables. One consists of five couples and the other will have four couples. It is a buffet-style dinner, but I wish to have assigned seats. Do I sit at the larger table across from my escort, or does he sit next to me, or what?
A. You sit at the head of the larger table, and he sits at the head of the smaller table. If you want to be near each other at dinner, call off the 16 extraneous people.
The idea when arranging more than one table is to prevent the guests from having any suspicion that there is an A table and a B table. There is, of course. But you must do everything you can to avoid letting the guests find proof.
You will naturally want to seat the gentlemen whom you consider most important next to you, and you may do so, provided you put their wives (or mates -- Miss Manners is not sure what you mean by "strictly") at the other table. You put the ladies you consider most important next to your escort, and their husbands or mates at your table. That way, when couples try to talk on the way home about the "better table" at which they have failed to be placed, they will either be contradicted, or convinced that the prestige of the family has been, at any rate, recognized.
Q. I like this boy a lot, but the only problem is he's going to move. I like him so much that I don't know what I should do. I'll never get a chance to see or call him because it's long distance. Do you know what I could do to solve my problem?
A. Well, there is the mail service, you know, and you can write him a letter. However, Miss Manners agrees that you have a problem. Most Young people do not know how to conduct a correspondence, and even if you write nicely, you may not get an answer.
Allow Miss Manners to offer you some bittersweet consolation. It is a good feeling to have someone you like to think about even if nothing comes of it. Since you are apart anyway, you don't have to worry about his not liking you or liking some other girl better. You can enjoy thinking sweet thoughts about him until you meet someone who makes you forget him.
Q. Your column on soup was interesting, but left unanswered some questions that have been a bone of contention in my family for some time.
1. As you near the end of the soup and wish to tilt the bowl, which way do you tilt it -- toward or away from you? I always thought you tilt it away, but my family thinks differently and my etiquette book doesn't cover bowl-tilting.
2. Which side of the spoon should be dipped into the soup? I always thought the far side was supposed to be dipped in.
A. Soup should always be kept flowing in the opposite direction from one's lap. Perhaps it is the selfishness of this that has kept polite people from mentioning it. Therefore you are right in both instances: The bowl should be gently tipped away from the soup-eater (a new and liberal policy, by the way; formerly you had to watch the last spoonfuls of soup be taken away with a bowl that you were never allowed to tilt) and the soup spoon should be filled from its far side and then poured gently into the mouth with the near side of the spoon.