DEAR MISS MANNERS: My oldest son started university this year at one of the top schools in the country — which also happens to be on the other side of the country. I have lost count of the number of people who, after initiating a conversation in which they ask after him, wanting to know where he is studying, have remarked, “Wow, that’s about as far away from home as he could get!”

I feel pretty sure that my son decided upon this school because it represented the opportunity of a lifetime; however, after so many responses of this ilk, even I am beginning to wonder.

Only time will tell, I guess, but in the meantime do you have any suggestions for how I might respond? I have tried to be gracious and not defensive, but I’m beginning to lose my sense of humor about this.

GENTLE READER: There is no call to take this personally. Americans automatically assume that children can’t bear to be with their parents, which has always struck Miss Manners as both peculiar and distasteful. Worse, there are now parents who — perhaps to head off this unflattering assumption — declare how happy they are to have empty nests.

Refuting the charge would indeed sound weak. Rather, you should show that the notion that your son’s educational motive was to escape you is so far from true that you don’t even understand the charge. With just a touch of sadness, you could say: “Yes, we both realized that is a disadvantage. But after all, it’s the best school for what he wants to do.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was told that at a nice restaurant, a man should place his date’s napkin on her lap. Is this proper?

GENTLE READER: Not if she is of legal age and capable of doing it for herself.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently invited two old friends of mine to dinner so they could meet each other. I thought they would have a lot in common, and they do. They hit it off famously. Since the dinner, I have found out they have gotten together — sans moi — and I feel just the slightest twinge of jealousy.

In the past, I have heard other friends worry about this happening when they introduced friends to friends, and I always thought it was a silly concern, believing there was enough love to go around for everyone. Now that I am experiencing it, it doesn’t feel so good.

My question, oh wise one, is whether I should have been included at a subsequent meeting (at least the initial one) they had after the dinner to recognize my connection to them both, or not?

GENTLE READER: If you are talking about a guest who gave a subsequent dinner party and included the new acquaintance but not you, Miss Manners would agree. But that part about hitting it off famously makes her suspect that a romance was intended and might be achieved.

Perhaps not, though, if they have to entertain you first. Give them a bit of time and privacy, and they may thank you all the more.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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