Q.I have observed two different practices in serving food at wedding receptions. The number of guests is well over 200 in each example.
Reception A: Guests pass through the receiving line and then proceed to sit or stand around until the bride has been served. Mother A says that no one approaches the table until the bride has eaten. Then everyone is asked to queue.
Reception B: Guests move from the receiving line and proceed to be served food and beverage. In this case, the bride has seen the table, but takes the position that the people there are her guests, and therefore the party is as much for them as for her and the groom. Later, she and the bridal party proceed to a table to be served.
Which is correct?
A. Miss Manners is so grateful to hear of a bride's entertaining the possibility that the wishes of anyone besides herself should be considered, that she would vote for B even if the bridal party ended up eating with their toes.
The A family has, however, a vague sort of point in believing that the bride is accorded precedence at her wedding. Should the wedding breakfast have been a seated meal for 12, she would be served first. (The idea that others should wait until she has finished eating is as lacking in tradition as it is in sense.)
To maintain this protocol at a buffet supper for 200 people, an increasing number of whom will be standing around hungry while the bride is receiving the stragglers, is insane. The conversation of disgruntled crowds who collect while their hosts are endlessly busy receiving compliments and posing for pictures, soon develops a nasty edge to it.
A bride who does not want to allow the comments about how lovely she looks to develop into serious critiques will forgo the privilege of being first at the eats. Surely the day will contain some pleasures that will compensate her for not having had the thrill of viewing an untouched table.
Q. There is a rotten apple in our neighborhood. I feel a little rotten myself, making such a statement about a little child, but there is general agreement among all us mothers that this kid is nothing but trouble. If the trash cans are knocked over, if the kids get out of the yard they were supposed to be playing in, if the neighborhood pets are being tortured, and if you look out the window and see a pile of clothes and a bunch of kids running around naked in the cold, we all know that Warren has been at it.
Some of the mothers have forbidden their children to play with him, but it doesn't do any good. There are a lot of kids on the block, and it's not easy to watch every minute to see who's in the group. Others, and I am one of them, have tried to tell our children why we don't like him, but they can't understand. Either it's too different from what we usually tell them about their not being "bad," just sometimes doing bad things, or we actually create respect for Warren by making him sound so important that we're afraid of him.
Do you believe in a bad child, and, if so, does a mother have the right to demand that her child not play with him?
A. Without engaging in ungenerous, psychologically oriented quibbling, Miss Manners will say that she does believe in a bad influence. Any child with an ounce of imagination will come up with a terrible plan of action once in a while, but to accumulate a consistent record bodes no good. Miss Mannners darkly suspects Warren's parents of not having taught him manners, and she hopes you appreciate the depth of that as an insult.
A parent certainly has the right to regulate who comes inside of her own house or yard, but to extend the right to placing a geographically accessible child outside of the bounds of decent society is a mistake. As you have noted, it can only render him glamorous.
A more effective attitude is to show your distaste for him, while letting on that you understand that your child is not as discriminating. The reason you give for not having him in the house or on excursions or other treats you may plan is that you find him unbearable. (Miss Manners does not care to be accused here of cruelty toward Warren. It can only do him good to discover that the popularity that results from breaking rules also ostracizes him from greater domains.) A child who enjoys seeing his parents obviously threatened by a mere playmate will take less delight in being pitied for such an alliance.