DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a a performance of "The Nutcracker" my husband and I attended, there were lots of little kids -- sisters all decked out in matching dresses, little boys in suits and ties.
We were seated by a woman about my age (old) who was with a couple of teenaged girls. A young couple was seated behind us with a little boy, perhaps 2 years old, who said a few words during the performance. He asked, "What's that?" when Clara received the nutcracker and when Herr Drosselmeyer climbed up behind the clock and spread his cape like a vampire, the little boy said, "Oh, oh!"
The woman beside me turned around and said, "SSSHHHH, please."
By and large, the child was quiet, but every now and then he'd say something and his mother would whisper, "No talking -- remember?"
Well, the woman beside me became more and more annoyed. She began to put her hand up over her eyes as if the child were giving her a headache and before the second act began, when the little boy made some noise, she turned to his mother and said, "Please take him out of here. We can't even hear the music. He's much too young to be here." The young couple took the little boy and left.
On the way home, my husband said he thought the woman was out of line. He said the little boy kicked the back of his seat a few times (he kicked mine, too), but it wasn't that bad. He asked me, "Why didn't you say to her, 'Are you always such a b - - - -, or only at Christmas?'"
There were several children on the other side of the theater who were making quite a racket. I don't know what the woman beside me would have done had she been seated over there, but I think 2 p.m. Nutcracker performances are the province of children, and if you want austere quiet, you'd better go to an evening performance.
Should I have said anything to the woman? If so, what?
GENTLE READER: Nothing you hear from your husband. Miss Manners did not care for the sample he supplied of how to encourage politeness.
Everyone here seems to have a lot to learn. Children have to be stopped from kicking seats, and adults have to be stopped from beating up on children and on one another.
The former is done by teaching children the manners of such an event before taking them and quietly reminding on the spot, as the mother was in fact doing (although she should also have been restraining the kicking). Some leeway should be allowed at child-oriented events, Miss Manners agrees, although she does not make the distinction you do between matinee and evening performances.
Restraining adults, such as your neighbor, seems to be more difficult. Concert halls and opera houses are packed with belligerent people who disdain complaining politely (with a regretful and sympathetic look) and get right down to insult and violence. Is there something about classical music that inspires this?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We exchange gifts with one of my closest relatives, and on the attached gift tags from her family to me, my children and husband, they put "from" their whole family (she, her husband and daughter) and the dog.
I am offended that this seems to place the same value on each of my children as their dog. Am I wrong to be sensitive to this? Should I address this somehow? If so, how?
GENTLE READER: Your relatives' dog probably lives at the same address as they do. However, you need address only the lady when writing, if you ask her to extend your thanks to her family.
That this includes the dog should make him equivalent to their daughter, not your children, although it does make your family more distantly related to him. Miss Manners reminds you that having a primitive relative of one sort or another is a common problem most families learn to accept.