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No need to cross-examine the server

Dear Miss Manners: I went out to dinner with my boyfriend and his wealthy parents to celebrate my birthday. I've been dating my boyfriend for eight months and have visited his family a number of times, and I'm growing more and more comfortable with them. I'm certainly not from a wealthy background, but I like to consider myself a classy young lady.

Because of my level of comfort, I was a lot more vocal at this particular celebration than at the last one. I got through drinks, appetizers and the main course with grace, in my humble opinion. However, when the waitress came to take our dessert and coffee order, I inquired about the espresso to find out if it was good. I asked our server a number of questions to see if she knew anything about good coffee.

As I kept asking questions, my boyfriend's father interrupted and said, "Excuse me, are you tipping her?" and then I was urged to simply order the espresso and stop asking questions.

Later, I realized this may have been rude to my boyfriend's father, as he was being kind enough to treat me to a very expensive dinner. However, I really wanted to be sure the espresso would be satisfactory. If I had ordered it and not liked it, I would have been very disappointed.

What is proper protocol for situations like this?

Gentle Reader: Really? After a convivial evening at the invitation of people who are important to you, you would have been "very disappointed" if the coffee had not met your standard?

It certainly suggests to your hosts that you are hard to please and that they, at any rate, were not succeeding.

Miss Manners suggests that you drop that argument about being "comfortable" enough to question the quality of the family's dinner in your honor. That you feel comfortable about appearing ungrateful should frighten their son, as well as them.

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Listen to this

Dear Miss Manners: Is it bad etiquette for you to hear women wearing sandals or flip-flops flipping and flopping as they walk?

Gentle Reader: You seem to be asking whether it is impolite to cock an ear toward summer footwear? Well, yes, although Miss Manners must say that this has never come up before.

But perhaps you are asking whether wearing -- rather than listening to -- sandals and flip-flops is impolite. It depends on where. To the White House, yes (and it has been done). On the boardwalk, no.

email: missmanners@unitedmedia.com.

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