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Not a cougar, she's his mom!
Strangers misunderstand mother-son dinners

Dear Miss Manners: On those evenings when I work late, my son, who is 24 years old, comes and picks me up from work. I'm 58, dress affluently, and look much younger than my age, or so I'm told. My husband will occasionally join us, but most of the time it's just us two.

Last week, as soon as I had gone to the ladies' room, an older woman came up to our table and told my son he was "disgusting" and asked why didn't he date women his own age.

He smiled and asked her how she was certain he didn't date women his own age and reminded her that this was none of her concern anyway. He went on to tell her that, in fact, I'm his mother. She wouldn't believe him and left scowling.

This happens so frequently, and it's usually younger girls and older women who come to our table and insult my son with their rudeness. He says some people are genuinely embarrassed, while others simply argue that they don't believe him.

I've had young girls call out to us, "Awwwwwww, it's a cougar." Another time, a young girl asked my son how a woman of my age could be better than her. The angry glares while I'm trying to enjoy my dinner after a hard day at work are more than I can stand.

I have seen many women out with younger fellows, and most of the time you can see the resemblance and assume they are out with their sons. I really do not care, but this outright rudeness and ignorance is really getting to me. I must conclude that the people who are doing it are downright jealous!

How does one deal with this constant barrage of extreme rudeness?

Gentle Reader: Where are you taking your son to dinner -- singles bars?

Miss Manners realizes that nosiness is rampant in our society, and that scolding strangers is smugly passed off under the name of helpful honesty. But that ordinary restaurants are packed with patrons who feel free to assess and critique one another's choices of dinner partners does strike her as peculiar.

And why would you try to engage with such people? Politeness does not require it, and you know from experience that attempting the defense that they have mistaken the relationship only legitimizes their premise. Unconstrained by manners, they have no hesitation about compounding the insult with charges of lying.

The polite way to snub meddling strangers is to ignore them or say coldly, "I don't believe I know you," while turning away. If this does not discourage them, your next step is to report to management -- within their hearing -- that you are being harassed by rowdy patrons.

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Ex moves on to wife No. 4

Dear Miss Manners: I paid for my recent divorce and completed all the paperwork, as well as appearing in court with a witness. Immediately following the court date, my now-ex e-mailed me asking how the divorce went and enclosed a link, which turned out to be a newspaper engagement announcement to his soon-to-be-fourth wife.

This announcement had obviously taken place before the divorce was finalized. By the way, I am very welcome to fly up to attend the wedding! Your take on this, please, manners-wise.

Gentle Reader: That it sounds pathetically like "See? At least someone loves me!"

e-mail: MissManners@unitedmedia.com

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