DEAR MISS MANNERS: Not long ago, I was dining with a friend in a restaurant that caters mainly to a gay clientele. A gentleman of our acquaintance entered, accompanied by a much younger man. They stopped at our table briefly to exchange greetings, but our acquaintance did not introduce his companion.
Because of a combination of factors (differences in age and ethnicity, the young man's rather provocative choice of clothing, and, above all, the lack of an introduction), my friend and I formed the opinion that our acquaintance was with a paid escort. There is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion (he was not cheating on a spouse), but not introducing him gave it away.
I think that the young man, whatever his occupation, should be entitled to the same courtesy as anyone else. (My friend and I also considered the possibility that it was us the gentleman was ashamed of and not his companion.)
When one is out on the town with someone whose company has been engaged for a monetary consideration, and one encounters acquaintances, what is the proper way of dealing with the situation? I assume one does not go into detail about finances, but for the sake of appearances, isn't it correct to at least pretend that the companion is a friend?
GENTLE READER: Why is Miss Manners having such a hard time finding tradition to quote in this case? It is not as though going about with a paid companion is a recent development.
Wait -- here it is:
A young person whose appearance and behavior are not of a gentleman's customary social circle is properly introduced as his nephew or niece.
But this is only necessary on social occasions when introductions are required. A chance encounter involving only a brief exchange of greetings does not require introducing one's companions, either in the past or now. While you are free to speculate on the relationship, the gentleman is not required to help you out.
What has changed, Miss Manners cautions, is that it has become perfectly plausible for a respectable person to have a provocatively dressed nephew or niece of an apparently different ethnicity.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have always lived in a house and been on friendly terms with my neighbors, chitchatting over backyard fences, walking to the mailbox together or borrowing the occasional thing from one another.
Now that I have moved into an apartment building for the first time in my adult life, I have to fight the urge to knock on the nearby closed doors and talk to my neighbors. I don't want to seem pushy or nosy, but no one has ever welcomed me to the building. I also resist opening my door when someone is heard in the hall as I don't want to be rude, but I am curious as to whom I live with in this building. I'm assuming people want privacy, but maybe I don't know the rules of neighboring in a shared building. What should I do?
GENTLE READER: Your laundry.