Q. My husband and I, along with two other couples, went "out on the town" last night. Throughout the entire night, my husband made eyes at a pretty young lady (young enough to be his daughter) sitting directly across from our table. To make matters worse, the young lady enjoyed every minute of the same and reciprocated. This ruined my entire night. I wanted to kick my husband and slap her face, but instead I made jokes to my friends about my husband'd flirtation.
Question: In the future, how can I handle a situation like this -- in a classy way, without looking like an insanely jealous wife? Also, should I let the next young lady know I don't appreciate her participation, or only my husband? Please answer soon -- I'm depressed, still!
A. Please stop being depressed. Miss Manners can't bear it and besides, you should feel proud of having done the -- as you say -- classy thing.
This does not mean that she does not sympathize with your position. Trying to look as if you are having a jolly time while the person with you manifests a romantic interest in a stranger is severe strain on the facial muscles, to say the least. It does not matter whether this "interest" is wicked or innocent. Well, perhaps it matters to the wife. But from the standpoint of manners, it is just as embarassing to the gentleman to pay a personal compliment to the waitress, under the mistaken impression that this is a form of tipping, as it is for him to send his office key and a bottle of champagne to the next table. If ladies ever behaved that way with strange gentlemen -- and Miss Manners prays they will not -- gentlemen would soon realize how thoroughly unpleasant it is to be an interested bystander.
Nevertheless, she would not advise you to teach manners to strange young ladies in night clubs or restaurants. It will be enough if you can teach them to your husband.
Please be careful not to discuss this so as to make it sound like jealousy -- an unattractive emotion in a wife, as you have noticed -- rather than etiquette. The age of the young lady has nothing to do with it, for example. You certainly do not want to get into such doomed questions as whether she was prettier than you, how he really feels about her, ditto about you, and so on. Merely say that you find such behavior rude and are afraid it makes him ridiculous in the eyes of your friends. Miss Manners trusts you to say this with tact, as well as firmness.
Perhaps he will change this behavior to oblige you. Perhaps he will change it when it is suggested that other people view it as ludicrous and pathetic, rather than dashing and charming.
Perhaps not. In that case, Miss Manners suggests that you save yourself this embarrassment again by separating your social life from his. Let him wonder, when you go out for dinner alone with another couple, how the table gets evened out.