DEAR MISS MANNERS: Participation in a dating service has yielded me a dozen first dates in the past few months, and they have been wonderful fun. However, at the conclusion of the dates, the men typically want to hug.
While I believe their intent is innocent, I find the expectation of a hug from someone I have known for just a few hours to be both presumptuous and inappropriate, and I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with the situation.
When I try to pre-empt their gesture by extending my hand for a handshake, these men either overlook it, discount it, or just open their arms and lean in, regardless of my reluctance.
What can I do to graciously decline these advances for a hug (and in some cases, a kiss, too) while letting the man know I've enjoyed his company and leaving the door open for a second date?
GENTLE READER: Many people now confuse a hug with a handshake. Almost as many as those who confuse a date with an assignation.
Miss Manners doesn't know which sort of confusion afflicts your new friends. Perhaps both. The two are not as mutually exclusive as logic might suggest.
But as you like these gentlemen anyway, she will not consider a solution that would permanently disabuse them of the desire to hug you. Reaching back to times that moved more slowly, she suggests that you jump back and say provocatively, "Oh dear, I never hug on the first date."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for two years, and we generally cook for each other when at each other's homes. I also take her out once in a while, and when we do a project at the other's home, the visiting person gets taken to dinner or made dinner for his or her efforts.
At my house (and I've told her this) I have the position that whatever is in the fridge is open for her to indulge herself. Basically, whatever is mine is hers, and I've told her there's no reason to even ask, just to take what she wants.
In recent months, my girlfriend will call me out or make dinner and then accuse me of "sponging." On occasion, I've helped myself to juice, and I'll get a comment like, "Just drink water." Am I overstepping my boundaries?
She's intimated that she expects the man to pay for all outings. Is that fair? And with my being hospitable to her in my home? I just did my taxes (I keep all receipts), and I spent over $4,000 just on entertainment, not to mention presents on Valentine's Day, birthdays, Christmas, etc.
I think it's just rude to ask someone out and then criticize them because they accept, or to tell me to drink water after I've extended the use of the beverages and food at my home.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is sorry to tell you that it won't help you in the least to have her side with you. The lady in question is deeply miffed at you, and water and juice have nothing to do with it.
Whether or not the situation is terminal, Miss Manners cannot say. It is possible that the lady is irritated because she wants a bond that is not merely that of two friends trying to be fair -- marriage being what comes to mind. It is also possible that what irritates her is the sight of you, and that what she wants is to put you out of her life as well as her refrigerator.
In neither case would it help to bring out all the receipts to show her how much you spent on her. This is one of those rare situations in which Miss Manners recommends what everyone else recommends for all situations, including those best left alone: Sit down with the lady and ask her gently what is really bothering her.