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Miss Manners: If wait staff is chummy, grin ’n’ bear it

Dear Miss Manners: I have to reveal a pet peeve: waiters and waitresses who ask questions of my dining party such as “Are we ready to order?” and “Did we save room for dessert?”

This inclusive questioning seems to occur at both casual and high-end restaurants. Do you agree that this is poor form? Is it appropriate to mention this annoyance to the server? I am a former waitress and a generous tipper!

Gentle Reader: That the wait staff uses odd phrases and strange terminology may unfortunately be a mandate coming from the establishment itself (or its focus groups) rather than the person.

Miss Manners supposes that the inclusive questioning you describe is in keeping with the unfortunate trend of servers trying to be the customers’ friends, and not their temporary employees. She agrees that the tone is condescending and has the opposite effect.

However, as a former waitress, how would you have reacted to a patron’s pointing out these little annoyances – particularly if they are a job requirement? Please save your complaints for the bigger transgressions and try to endure.

Tactful child-free invitation

Dear Miss Manners: I have become friendly at church with a gay couple who moved into the area. They have a 4-year-old child who is always with them at parties and events where they are in attendance.

I like this couple and want to invite them to my home. I entertain a lot and quite formally. Would it be rude to ask them not to bring their child?

Gentle Reader: Not if you phrase it correctly. “We would love to have the two of you over at a dinner party.” And they are properly referred to as “a couple,” not “a gay couple.”

If they balk at leaving their child, Miss Manners authorizes you to continue: “I’m afraid it won’t be interesting for Madeleine – and our house isn’t really equipped for a child. But you are new here, and I’m sure that we could help introduce you to some wonderful baby sitters in town.”

Uniform wedding guest colors?

Dear Miss Manners: Now that same-sex marriage has been declared legal in my state, my son and his fiancé are planning their wedding. They have chosen black and white as their colors. Is it appropriate to request that their guests also dress in black and white?

Gentle Reader: It has always been appropriate for gentlemen, whether bridegrooms or guests, to wear black and white at a wedding. Miss Manners reminds you, however, that it has never been appropriate to attempt dictating color schemes to the ladies.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s daughter, Jacobina Martin.