DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were invited to a dinner party at which my husband was seated at the main table next to the hostess, and I was seated at a far table in a corner, with my back to the other guests.
I made the best of it by engaging in warm conversation with those seated with me, but left at the end of the evening feeling like I would not care to accept another invitation to this woman's house. My husband only noticed when I brought it to his attention on our drive home.
Can you offer me any thoughts on the situation and advise me on how to respond if and when we are invited again? It certainly is a good reminder to be thoughtful and sensitive when we do seating charts for dinner parties. I don't need to be seated next to my husband, although many couples were, but I didn't appreciate being seated out in Siberia!
GENTLE READER: You have been exposed to too many headwaiters. They are the ones who invented the idea of Siberian tables, reaping a tidy side income from those buying their way out. You make it sound as if you were put in time out, facing the wall, but Miss Manners notices that there were other guests with you. She doubts that the hosts meant to insult them.
Yes, seating should be done sensitively, but it is attitudes such as this that make hosts give up and say, "Oh, sit anywhere."
And then people find themselves next to those with whom they have nothing in common -- or too much in common, as is the case with married couples. The purpose of a dinner party is to mix people with others who might interest them, not to give couples a night out to focus on each other.
Except at official functions, where rank might have to take precedence over compatibility, the only rules are to place a guest of honor, or the oldest person present, or the newcomer in a familiar circle, next to the host or hostess. After that, it is a matter of pairing people who are apt to discover conversational topics of mutual interest. If there are several tables, one way of avoiding the appearance of favoritism is to put one spouse near a host and the other not, so no one family would be given one position or the other.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Many decades ago, I took a female high school classmate to the prom. For many years, I blamed her for the crummy time we had that evening.
Now, through the wonder of a loving and caring partner, I have come to realize that it was entirely my fault. My attempts to be "funny" were insulting and rude. I feel terrible about this. Should I attempt to contact this person and apologize, or is it better to avoid reminding her of what must have been a horrible experience.
GENTLE READER: It depends on how thoroughly you have gotten over your high school arrogance. Miss Manners can imagine your making this into an amusing, self-deprecating story that could well be appreciated. But if there is any danger of your implying that you were of such importance to the lady that she must still be smarting over this decades later, it would only go to show that you had not really changed.