DEAR MISS MANNERS: When you need to pass seated patrons at a live performance or a movie theater, which way shows better etiquette? My wife, who grew up in Europe, states that the way Americans will shuffle sideways with their backsides facing the seated spectators, is considered rude by Europeans. I say it may have to do with the habit of Americans of buying food and souvenirs before the show or game and then taking them to their seats. I guess Americans don't want to hold their food in the faces of seated fans while looking at the faces of these people.
What is your recommendation? Some married American men could get in the doghouse if they were smiling and staring at the faces and assets of beautiful women on the way to their seats.
GENTLE READER: Well, you certainly do make a revolting -- Miss Manners meant to say compelling -- case for facing away from the spectators. That theater-goers might leer at those they must pass so closely, or drag French fries under their noses would be reason enough to establish the custom of facing away from those who are seated.
But the custom already existed before the invention of the motion picture (and its enhancement with junk food), although not before the invention of the leer. Actually, the correct posture is an angle at which the latecomer is mostly facing away from those he is passing, but at which he can say "Excuse me" if the event has not already begun.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it permissible to have the major participants -- not the bride and the groom -- wear nametags at the reception? Tags for mothers, stepmothers, fathers and stepfathers? Just names, not the relationships, as people should be able to figure those out for themselves once they have the names straight.
Both the groom and our family have confusing relationships with steps and exes. Although there will be a receiving line, and we'll get everybody in the right order, and we'll do introductions, many of the guests will have no clue as to who is who after 10 minutes even though they've gone through a line or been introduced. Is this idea tacky?
GENTLE READER: Life would certainly be easier if everyone bore a label; Miss Manners cannot deny that. But why just names?
The relationships are what people really want to know: "Bernard 'Studs' Woollcott/Bride's Mother's Second Husband." And if you really want to make things easier on the guests, you should also list the ingredients: "Lorelei MacIntosh/Half-sister of Bridegroom/Contains bile, artificial sweetener, some added coloring."
You probably don't want to do that because, if you think about it, you probably don't want to spoil the clothes and atmosphere of the occasion by making it look like a convention. In other words, yes, it is a tacky idea.
But Miss Manners has this comfort to offer you: Wedding guests don't really care whether they get the names of all the relatives, as they do not expect to see them again. And if they do, there are plenty of people around to ask.