DEAR MISS MANNERS: My next-door neighbors have four kids, ages 4 to 10. These kids have been told by their parents that if one kid is invited to a function, they are all invited. Therefore, when my son invites his 10-year-old counterpart over to swim, all four kids may show up.
Do you find this one-is-all rule acceptable? It presents obvious problems, such as baby-sitting the 4-year-old while she is in the water. Any advice for handling the situation without banning them all from the pool? I don't want to be rude to the kids that were not invited by stopping them short of the water and sending them back home.
GENTLE READER: Someone had better stop these children short of fratricide when they attempt to go on one another's dates and wedding trips.
Whether the parents are motivated by the touching-but-futile desire to make the outside world treat their children alike or the more immediate one of having a quiet house to themselves, this is a disastrous (and socially illicit) policy. It is not the children who should be embarrassed, Miss Manners agrees, but the parents who must be disabused. She suggests a double-barreled warning with the invitation, citing safety as well as social reasons:
"We'll be delighted to have all of you another time, but Zachery wants to have some time with Kipp, without the smaller children around. I'll keep an eye on them, of course, but I can't let the others into the pool unless there are more adults around."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I usually remember the order of introductions, but not always. "X is introduced to Y" is spoken how? In the case of ladies and gentlemen, is it "Ginger, I'd like for you to meet my good friend Fred"?
Would that be introducing Fred ("I'd like you to meet") to Ginger, or Ginger (whose name is revealed first) to Fred? I think I have it right, but I stammer occasionally on this one.
GENTLE READER: You wouldn't get so rattled if Ginger and Fred could only stand still for a minute instead of swinging off into the distance while you are giving them a proper introduction.
If you think of it as presenting one to the other, you will remember that the person whom you are addressing, Ginger, is the one to whom the other is presented. "May I present" is, in any case, a more graceful construction than "like for you to meet." If you find that cumbersome, you can say simply, "Ginger, this is..."
Two extra points that Miss Manners throws in for free:
1. If neither party is related to you, do not refer to one of them as your friend, because it implies that the other one isn't.
2. Please, please, use their last names. Suppose Fred calls Ginger the next day to ask her to be his dance partner, but reaches the other Ginger who was at the party -- the one who is perfectly nice but has two left feet?