Dear Miss Manners: There seems to be an idea (mentioned by others and presented in books and movies) that one’s new spouse or partner must be introduced to one’s ex-spouse/ex-partner. The implication is that the ex’s approval of the new romance is necessary.
Unless the exes share children, I am puzzled about why a new beginning needs to be presented to the past and accepted. Is this always a requirement? Is it unacceptable to proceed with a new relationship if one does not have an ex’s blessing?
Gentle Reader: Were this indeed a requirement, it would significantly cut into the second marriage market.
Miss Manners thought that the point of a divorce was to eliminate the requirement that two people agree, after they realize they can’t.
That said, many people find that some social contact with their ex-partners is either desirable or inescapable. In such cases, a formal introduction will be unavoidable, and may reflect the warmth (or lack thereof) of the relationship with the ex-partner.
Use first or second language?
Dear Miss Manners: In dealing with people such as restaurant servers and housekeeping staff here in the United States, I occasionally find that my second language is one that is likely to be their first language – and sometimes, their English isn’t very good. I’d enjoy a chance to practice my second language and maybe make communication a little easier.
I do, however, wonder how to break the ice in this respect, without making unwelcome assumptions – maybe I’m wrong and this person doesn’t speak that language at all, or would rather use English.
Is there a polite way to ask whether the other language would be better, or if I could make things easier by meeting them halfway? Or would it be better for me to just forget about it and stick to English?
Gentle Reader: Have you ever had the deflating experience of proudly speaking a foreign language abroad, only to be coolly answered in English?
Perhaps the foreigners were only trying to practice their second language. However, it comes off as being unable to bear your mangling of their language.
That is what Miss Manners hopes you will avoid doing to others. So she will let you try only if you are able to admit, in a humble yet chatty way, that you do speak a bit of whatever, and if the person you address also does, you would appreciate being permitted to practice it.
This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin. Send questions to missmanners.com or email email@example.com.