Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: I am shocked at the lack of basic manners around me as I attend events. People eat (loudly) and hold conversations during the performance. They use their phones to text. People next to me take over part of my seat. People in front of me hold children on their laps, lean on the person next to them or otherwise obstruct my view. At a recent performance of "Phantom of the Opera," the woman behind me was singing along with the performers during the entire show. Worst of all, people come and go during songs instead of waiting for a break. At my daughter's recent school chorus concert, someone walked right in front of the stage to get to their seat mid-performance! 

What has happened to basic manners? These performers have worked hard and deserve our respect and attention. And people who have paid $75 for a ticket to "Phantom of the Opera" would like to actually enjoy the show. Can you give people a basic theater etiquette review? They seriously need it. -- ETIQUETTE NOW

DEAR ETIQUETTE NOW: Here are some tips for how to behave in a theater (or in public for that matter). 1. Turn off your cell phone. 2. If your child is under 5 and this isn't a family-themed show, get a sitter and spare us all. 3. Please enter and leave the theater during designated times unless it's an emergency of epic proportions. 4. Take off your hat. 5. No talking. Seriously. No talking. Or singing for that matter. 6. Respect others by eating during the breaks. Follow these rules and we will all have a pleasant experience (and not rant about you on Facebook later). 

DEAR NATALIE: We have a neighbor who is my teenage son's closest friend, and we just found out that he is moving to another state. The boys have practically spent every summer day together since they were little, so I am very anxious about the coming months. The whole topic is stressful enough, but there's something different about it since he is a teenager. There will be no kids his age in our neighborhood once his friend moves and he says it seems awkward to ask his school friends to come over, that they seem too old for that. How do I push him to get together with his school friends more during the summer months? A friend suggested that I call his friends' mothers, but I think that is a bit extreme and not a good idea. Please help! -- A WORRIED PARENT 

DEAR A WORRIED PARENT: Ah yes, the teenage years. Full of confusion, awkwardness and frustration. (And that's just how the parents feel!) Often boys this age have a very hard time expressing emotions, which can make it very challenging to try to fix the issue. That's why not fixing the issue is your best bet. Let him work this out on his own, if you can. Encourage him to get a part-time job over the summer or volunteer with an organization (as this is a great way to meet new friends). But the truth is, no one wants his mom to interfere in his social life -- especially a teenager. The best thing to do is let him enjoy his time with his close friend now, and when his friend moves, encourage him to keep in touch, visit his friend when possible, and continue to seek out new opportunities to touch base with those in his community. Having someone over to the house may seem weird for him, so suggest meeting a friend at the mall, a coffee shop, the park or anywhere you know of that he feels comfortable. Give him space, worried parent, but reassure him that if he needs you, you will be there to help. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: You don't need to apologize when you ask for help. Networking is a two-way street and apologizing can come off as a lack of confidence. Sure, they may be able to give you a tip now, but in the future you may be able to reciprocate. Don't look at it as a favor, but an exercise in building long-term, positive relationships.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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