DEAR MISS MANNERS: My ex-wife can be counted on to call at inconvenient times. I have been trying to settle on the appropriate way to handle this, specifically when I might be on a date.
We have a son, so obviously, it's not so simple a matter of telling her to never call again. Should she need to reach me, she should -- but in the course of the past few years, she has never NEEDED to get a hold of me when she called.
Do I ignore it and let her leave a message? Call back at a point in the date where perhaps we're (my date and I) taking a moment to freshen up?
Is it even appropriate to LOOK at the cell phone to see whose calling? Should I leave the ringer off and check it periodically when it is unobtrusive to my date?
I guess I am ultimately looking for a proper -- and defensible -- way to approach this.
GENTLE READER: Far be it from Miss Manners to suggest that your former wife has devised a clever way to encourage you to be rude to other ladies.
But the specter of an emergency seems to have been invoked so successfully that you are behaving as if a moment's inattention would endanger your son's life. Meanwhile, the inattention to ladies you are escorting will endanger your social life.
Of course you want to be notified if something is wrong with your son, but telephones are now clever enough to take messages. You might keep in mind that the parent who knows about an emergency first would naturally be first on the spot to attend to it.
If you allow your telephone to ring or visibly check it for messages, the lady with you will rightly conclude that you are rude. If you constantly run off to freshen up or even admit to needing constant proof that an emergency has not occurred, she will conclude that you are nuts.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I reply to people who ask me to guess how old they are?
GENTLE READER: Four.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would love to serve napoleons as dessert. However, I have never been able to determine how one eats this delectable dessert and still maintains a certain amount of decorum on the dessert plate. Any attempt results in the filling being pressed outward and the hard frosting creating shards that end up off of the plate.
GENTLE READER: So should you aim the ends at your dinner partners or your own lap if you slam down on the middle and the filling spurts out the sides?
Miss Manners hopes that is not the question. Fortunately for everyone concerned, a proper dessert service consists of both a fork and a spoon. Perforate it in the middle using the tines of your fork, then cut it with side of the fork and use the spoon to shield everyone from flying parts.