DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have been asked to dinner by our daughter's significant other. We assume it is to receive our blessing in proposing marriage to her.
Can we ask questions? Or are we there to give our blessing, which we do? He is a lovely young man who obviously adores our daughter and vice versa. They are each 33 years old, successful in their careers.
But coming from her mother married to her father for 39 years, I am wholly aware of "life." To ask questions about lifelong marriage to younger people entering a first and hopefully one-time marriage seems kind of silly in today's world. Least of all, should he be expected to pick up the check?
GENTLE READER: You should allow the gentleman to pick up the check, since it is he who invited you. Miss Manners also recommends allowing him the benefit of the doubt, at least for the moment.
The traditional drilling of a prospective bridegroom by the lady's father was financial, and it was done in the privacy of the paternal study. This was so he would not be interrupted by his daughter's crying out, "But Papa, I don't care about money! I love him! I'd rather starve with him than marry a prince."
That is not a scene for a public restaurant -- nor anywhere else nowadays, when both are self-supporting and the lady's agreement will already have been secured. What the bridegroom seems to have planned is a celebratory dinner, at which the engagement is announced to you and your blessing is expected.
Give it and drink your champagne. Later, in private conversations with your daughter and perhaps in carefully polite ones with her fiance, you will be able to solicit their views on marriage and impart yours.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of mine has graduated from college and is in the very long process of saying goodbye as she packs up and moves home, out of state.
I say long because, well, for nearly a month now we, her circle of close friends, have been enduring innumerable "lasts" -- the last weekend party, the last karaoke night, the last dinner out, etcetera. What I thought was her Big Goodbye, a party last weekend, wasn't. I found out that this evening she is wanting to gather us all to her boxed-up apartment and toast her and say farewell again.
Just how many goodbyes are civilized people expected to endure? Shouldn't a goodbye be bittersweet, and not just bitter? Shouldn't a person realize that focusing so much on one's own departure is likely to make one's friends say, instead, "good riddance"?
GENTLE READER: Yes, but unless the lady is summoning her friends to pack the cartons or contribute to the expenses, she is guilty only of an excess of sentiment. You may, of course decline her invitations. But Miss Manners hopes that when you can no longer bear it, you add, "But please let me know when you're actually going, so I can see you off."