Q: At a dinner with the object of my affections, a female friend of his, and her male companion, the conversation was light and pleasant until this female friend brought up, out of the blue, the subject of a woman my companion had dated several years ago.
They had discussed this woman on other occasions and had a good laugh. I could find little to laugh about and finished the evening with good grace but several large knots in my stomach.
When my companion and I returned to our shared abode, I told him I thought his friend's remarks were inappropriate. I said she could not have known how I would react, since she and I had never met before, so she should have saved reminiscences of that nature for their lunches together.
My companion replied that no slight was intended, either to me or to our relationship, and I was being too sensitive. He said that once I got to know this friend better, as he fervently hoped I would, I could present my objections to her myself in a friendly and constructive manner.
I replied that I thought it his responsibility, if not to "train" his friends, to refrain from encouraging them by laughing along.
Am I being too sensitive? Have I inflicted that hypersensitivity on my friends? Should a person of the world be expected to take such gratuitous and uninvited remarks in stride?
Or should a well-mannered person of the world be expected to know enough not to make such remarks in the first place?
A: Those knots in your stomach worry Miss Manners. She could certainly make an etiquette case against two people discussing a third in front of a fourth who does not know the third. She most certainly believes that it is in bad taste to discuss, with anyone at all, the more romantic aspects of any intimacy in which one has participated.
But she does not want to encourage you in believing that society must conspire to make you believe that you are your companion's first love. You really do not want your beau, who has shown himself anxious to make his friend be your friend, to train others to censor their conversation by explaining how sensitive you are.
How much better a figure you would cut if you gently defended this woman from their humor. Saying, with a tolerant smile, "Why, I think you're both awful -- I'm sure she was a lovely woman, and you are just being wicked," will spoil this line of conversation for them much more effectively than showing discomfort.
Feeling incorrrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.