Q. From time to time, I give small dinner parties in which we talk about politics, art, theater or other people, and they are anything but boring. aI have a very dear friend who now and then falls asleep after dinner, in the middle of my party. Should I give her coffee, instead of the Sanka she always requests? She is not old. I have talked to her about this problem, and I know she feels bad.
A. Nearly everyone has, at one time or another, fallen asleep at a public or social event, or watched someone else do so. But while it is common, natural and blameless, it nevertheless cannot be tolerated. It cannot fail to suggest boredom, even though that seldom is its cause.
It also falls into the spinach-in-the-teeth category of actions that cause more humiliation in the doer if he or she is uncorrected, than if it is pointed out at the time.
Therefore, you must wake up your friend. Perhaps not with substituting coffee for decafeinated liquids without her knowledge -- Miss Manners is against administering stimulants to the unsuspecting -- but with a word or an elbow. If no one else has observed your friend's mental departure from the party, you could grab her arm or nudge her, under the pretext of passing her a mint or brandy. If you cannot get near her without causing a disruption, call out her name and then draw her into the conversation, as in, "Marabelle! We were just saying how many wonderful presidential candidates there are to choose from this year. What do you think?"
Vague questions are best, you see, because even an alert person can be excused for replying, "Well, um, I don't rightly know."
Q. I am divorced with three small children, ages 8 through 2 years. Here is my question: When I go out on dates, I am usually stuck with paying the baby-sitting bill. This can range anywhere from $5 to as much as $10 for one evening. Is it proper for the man to offer to pay for the sitter? After all, I would not be out this money if it were not for going out on the date.
All my dates are far more well off than I am financially. Having three children and being single, I am on a very fixed budget. Sometimes I have to turn down dates because I cannot afford to pay the sitter. Is it proper to let the person know you cannot go out with him unless he volunteers to pay for the baby-sitting? I have talked with a lot of other women in my same situation. Please let us know what is the best way to handle this problem.
A. Please do not think Miss Manners unsympathetic to single mothers with financial problems. But she must tell you that the sort of thinking that begins, "After all, I would not be out this money if it were not for . . ." can lead to no good.
You would also possibly not be out the money for the dress you wore and you are missing any money you could be earning by working that evening. On the other hand, you have tansferred your food and entertainment costs to someone else.
Do you see how detestable that type of calculation is? However, Miss Manners wouldn't dream of leaving you the poorer for being proper. She has a suggestion.
Get together with all those other women in the same plight, and take turns baby-sitting for one another for free.