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Miss Manners: Three breaches of etiquette on fourth date

Dear Miss Manners: A guy I just started dating took me out to dinner for my birthday on our fourth date. He raised his glass and made a toast in my honor.

I chimed in during the toast to say something nice about him, as well. He said that I should not have interrupted the toast. I suggested that correcting etiquette is also not proper form. Can you help us?

Gentle Reader: There were three breaches of etiquette by Miss Manners’ count: You interrupted your date while he was speaking. He admonished you. And you admonished him.

Assuming that the evening did not end with a fourth, unreported breach – for example, his drink on your dress – and that a fifth date is therefore a possibility, Miss Manners prescribes apologies all around.

Failing in duties as party host

Dear Miss Manners: I received an invitation for my niece’s baby shower, where the hosts listed are her 7- and 2-year-old daughters. This means her daughters will be the ones to run any shower games and to open each gift for their mother.

Her 7-year-old (4 at that time) was allowed to do that at her bridal shower. It was very annoying and time-consuming. Is this the trend now for parties, allowing the kids to be the hostesses?

Gentle Reader: The practice of using a party as a stage for one’s children to bore the guests is not, Miss Manners notes, new.

And there is certainly a trend toward misunderstanding the duties of a host, which include inviting and entertaining the guests, not focusing on being the recipient of gifts.

Etiquette sets no minimum age, but does require that a host understand – not to mention fulfill – her duties. It also prohibits her from throwing a shower for herself, or even agreeing to one when it is not her first child.

Reacting to deployment news

Dear Miss Manners: What is the proper way to react when someone says their loved one is being deployed?

Oftentimes, people feel honored and excited to serve their country; however, most have some level of sadness and trepidation. I don’t want to come off as thinking it is a death sentence, but I want to convey the proper sympathy.

Gentle Reader: If you must guess at people’s unexpressed feelings – always a risky endeavor – why assume the negative? Miss Manners assures you that the relatives are well aware of the danger and do not need to you remind them.

You could just as easily say, “You must be very proud,” and offer sympathy only if it seems to be requested.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin.