DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a college student and often, when friends' parents are in town, they will offer to take out a group of their child's friends to a restaurant.
If I cannot attend, do I express my regrets to the son or daughter who did the inviting, or to the parents themselves, who would have done the paying?
If I accept the invitation, I generally feel it is good form to send a thank-you note to the parents -- after all, they bought me dinner. A roommate insists this is pretentious, and that warmly thanking them at the end of the meal or at our next meeting is sufficient. Who is correct?
I am 21, but many of my friends are not. Some parents have offered to buy me a glass of wine at dinner (when appropriate with our setting and meal). I certainly have no intention of drinking more than one glass or getting drunk, but is it inappropriate to accept a drink given the fact that some of my friends at the table cannot?
I generally do not assume that parents will pay the way of all of their children's friends at dinner, as the outing sometimes involves six or seven of us, and I have on occasion asked how much I owe or otherwise indicated upon the arrival of the check that I would certainly be willing to pay for my meal. Someone indicated that this may be offensive and shows that I don't think a family is well-off.
Am I being rude in my effort to be polite?
GENTLE READER: Pretentious? Rude? Does Miss Manners think that parents who receive a direct answer to their invitation and a letter of thanks are thinking, "Hummph! Who does she think she is?"
Your concern, rather, is what the other students think. What your friends are protesting is your proposing to do more than the minimum that the situation requires, which is to reply to the person who gave you the invitation and thank the hosts at the meal's end. You actually recognize that these people have done something gracious, and you want to be gracious in return.
When the others call it "pretentious," it means "I don't want to do it, so don't show me up." But why should you lower your standards to meet the common ones -- anymore than you should feel obliged to lower your age and forgo a legal drink?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone on the street offers me a flyer for something in which I know I have no interest, is it more polite to 1) take the flyer, as this is the person's job and he or she is trying to do it diligently, and then throw it away, or 2) decline the flyer so that it goes to someone who may be interested in it?
GENTLE READER: Giving out the flyers is only the physical aspect of the job. If that were all there was to it, this could be accomplished by handing them all to one (unsuspecting) person.
The purpose of the job is to get the word out to those who might be responsive. If you know in advance that you will never be persuaded to do whatever it is the flier asks you to do -- sign a petition, buy a product, or whatever else -- and yet want to help the distributor to accomplish his or her purpose, Miss Manners recommends saying "No, thank you," and moving on.