Q.Must a college freshman sit still for an embarrassing send-off from his family?
A.The embarrassing send-off is a sacred ritual marking the transition from the parental roof to the collegiate one and should not be neglected. If possible, it should be conducted at the college itself, in front of all the victim's new classmates, but the home version will do if it is sufficiently soppy to make a lasting impression. Miss Manners advises going heavy on the admonitions ("Now you won't forget to . . . take your vitamins, write every day, bundle up warm . . . " etc.) and the bathos ("Imagine, our little bunny a college student. Why it seems only yesterday that . . . ")
The point is not only, as children believe, to allow the parents to get a return on their tuition with a good sentimental wallow. It also is to impress the child with the fact that he will never fully be able to separate himself from his background, and that this consists of people who take an uncomfortably eager interest in his welfare. This warns him not to get too reckless with his new independence, but it also serves to bolster him emotionally. The exasperating burden of an affectionate family can be used equally as a point of common commiseration with one's new friends and as a secret source of comfort in difficulties with them.
Q.I am a single man in my early 20s, and have become friends with a gentleman, also single and in his 20s, who works in my office. We have lunch together often and also see an occasional movie or have dinner. I hope to remain friends with him, even if our respective careers take us apart.
The problem: He thinks that I am homosexual and has stated this belief in public. I don't know why he has come to this conclusion.
I am not seeing a young woman at this time, and have not told him of previous relationships with women, the most recent of which just ended. Perhaps, not knowing of my relationships, he thinks I don't welcome them.
So far, I have ignored his insinuations when he has brought up the subject. I know that any kind of denial can only call attention to the accusation itself, thereby leading people to conclude that it is true. However, this may happen anyway, damaging my career.
Do you think that he is really homosexual and this is his way of making a pass at me? Or must I rape one of our female clerks in public to prove that I'm not?
A.If Miss Manners were given to speculation about other people's sexual inclinations, she would wonder about your implication that it is more socially acceptable to be a rapist than a homosexual.
Fortunately, she does not go in for that sort of thing. Nor does she believe that anyone can qualify for friendship who speculates publicly about another's private life.
What you have here is a vicious gossip, regardless of his own sexual preferences. If you do not drop him, people will assume that he speaks from your confidence and your consent.
Q.My questions have to do with serving soup as a first course for a party of eight or fewer.
*Could a cold soup be at the place setting when the guests come to the table?
*Must bouillon cups and saucers be on a service plate, and should the saucer be placed on a salad plate as well, making a total of four pieces of china at the place?
*Where should the bouillon spoon be placed?
*Can the dinner plate be on the table and left there when the soup course is removed?
*Can hot soup be served from a tureen at the host's place, and then passed around the table by the other guests?
*Can a large soup bowl be placed on the dinner plate at the place and removed before serving the main course, or must there be a service plate?
A.Miss Manners doesn't know who your friends are, but she would not risk passing a hot soup tureen around the table, even in her own genteel circle.
Service plates, which Miss Manners adores, generally are used when there is some sort of service, even it if is only the host's children indentured for the occasion. Otherwise, the act of replacing service plates with dinner plates claims too much of the hosts' time, and the dinner plates are used at the place setting, first as underliners for the bouillon cup and saucer or for the just larger bowl, called a soup plate. (What would the salad plate be doing in between -- waiting for a radish to saunter in looking for a home?)
Only competent, grown-up help should even think about serving soup formally, by the waiter carrying a tureen from guest to guest. In real life, soup either is brought to the table in individual servings, or served at the table by the host, or even, if it is cold, put out before guests appear. The soup spoon is placed on the right of the knives. One of the little-known thrills of formal dining is that one may scorn the bouillon spoon entirely, pick up the cup by its handles and drink directly. It looks shocking, but it is perfectly proper.