DEAR MISS MANNERS: Through a series of lucky coincidences, my son was given a very small role in a major theatrical production a few months ago. It was an interesting and exciting experience for our whole family, but I have to admit I was kind of relieved when it was over and things got back to normal.
A friend asked me to lunch last week and requested that I bring my backstage snapshots. She had brought along someone whom she introduced as her son's girlfriend's mother, and passed her my snapshots with comments like, "See, I told you he was a cutie."
I was embarrassed, since I didn't think this lady should have to act interested in a stranger's family's snapshots, but she was studying them carefully, and finally she said to me, "Well, I'd like you to bring your son to my office, and then we can talk further."
I was completely confused, but then my friend explained that she is a children's theatrical agent, and she had been telling her all about my son and "just knew she'd want to represent him once she got a look at him."
I absolutely do not want my kid to have an agent. My friend has been saying since my son was a baby that I should "put him in commercials," and I have always made it very clear that I am not interested.
Back to the restaurant: Here are my friend and her friend looking at me expectantly, then incredulously, as I repeatedly said thanks, but no thanks. The agent was getting angry, because apparently my friend told her I was very interested in having her meet my son, and said for the hundredth time that she hears from dozens of people every day "who would kill for this chance."
I snapped back, "Well, call one of them instead." I know this was rude, but I was really upset at being put in this uncomfortable position. Lunch ended soon after.
I have sent a letter apologizing to the agent who, after all, was brought there on false pretenses and was just doing her job, but my friend says I also owe her an apology for embarrassing her and not having what she calls "the decency to appreciate a wonderful opportunity."
I realize she thinks she was doing me a big favor, but since I've told her before that I wasn't interested, I think she was the rude one. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: Your friend suffers from the common illusion that show business is the goal of every sane American, and that having a child in it is the equivalent of a medieval family's having a saint in its midst. That is, it may be a difficult life, but the honor of it makes it worth bearing anything.
When you denied this, your friend thought you were delusional and decided to help you anyway. Now she thinks you are being coy, probably in the hope of cutting a better deal. This is why she felt she could break into your private business, ignore your explicit wishes, set you up in an ambush and still maintain that it is you who is being rude.
Miss Manners is explaining this only to warn you that you have so little hope of making your friend understand you that it hardly seems worth trying. You might be better off murmuring that you know she meant well and you would like the subject dropped than trying to shake her belief.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our granddaughter is graduating from college, plus she got engaged. She wants a graduation and engagement party on the same day to celebrate both. Is this having good manners?
GENTLE READER: You are not inquiring whether good manners demand that one give oneself two parties, rather than one, are you? Miss Manners believes you have three things to celebrate with your granddaughter, the third being her restraint.