Q. The problem I am writing you about is a serious one in my life, and I do not know of anyone else who can help. This is it -- and to date, I have not seen any discussions on the subject.
When a man takes a woman out for an evening, whether it be a dance, dinner with friends or a party at a friend's house, what exactly are his duties or obligations to her? Does the situation change if the woman is his wife?
I have been married a long time to a man who consistently takes me out and promptly ignores me for much of the evening; for example, at a dance he has actually asked another woman for the first dance and stayed away from me for an hour. He's danced with others at our table while their husbands hang out at a bar, not dancing with any of the wives.
The last straw was at a recent party at a friend's. An attractive woman sat between my husband and me, and for a full two hours, he totally ignored me. sNot a glance, not a word to me, as we played a card game with eight other people. I felt absolutely humiliated at his behavior, and I am not unattractive. I have some social charm.
He hates to admit being in the wrong on these situations, but after the last ordeal with him, I told him I shall not ever again attend a party with him -- I think it would finish our marriage. I should say we are an older couple, in our 60s. Is my husband's behavior normal?
A. Miss Manners thorougly approves of your decision to stop going to parties, as you obviously do not enjoy them or understand their purpose, and she only hopes you will not attempt to discourage the attendance of your husband, who does.
The purpose of social events is to enjoy the company of friends and make new ones; not to put on a show of marital unity for others. Presumably, you and your husband are married because you wish to spend most of your time with each other.
If you want to spend all of your free time together, you need only stay home with the door shut. This is such an obvious fact of marriage that Miss Manners tends to presume, when she sees a married couple paying concentrated attention to each other in public, that at least one of them is staging a diversion.
Rather than make such a spectacle of your marriage, Miss Manners suggests that you put some of that social charm you claim to good use. If you were sitting next to an attractive woman, why did you not attempt to engage her in conversation or to join the one she was having with your husband? If all the wives are at the table and all the husbands except yours at the bar, why don't you lead the ladies to join them, perhaps to ask them -- it would be rather charming if you all did it together -- to dance?
For that matter, you might confide to your husband how much you would enjoy having the first (or last) dance with him. It would be better if the words duty and obligation were not part of this otherwise flattering invitation.
Q. Please give me some pointers on how to terminate tactfully a telephone conversation that seems to have become too lengthy. If I have placed a call, I feel free to say goodbye early, but I don't if the other person has placed it.
A. You are correct that the placer of the call should bring it to a close, but we all know there is only so much yapping a body can stand.
It is perfectly within the bounds of propriety to wind down one's own end of the conversation until it drags the whole thing to a halt. This is done by repeating heartily, "Well, okay, that's great. Nice talking to you" whether it is relevant or not, until the talker gets discouraged.
For an undiscouraged talker, one can only offer some version of "I think I hear my mother calling me."