DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family and I recently attended a dance concert in a small venue. Several teenagers were also in attendance, accompanied by chaperones, and one of the teenagers had brought with her what I can only describe as a fake baby. (Some high schools have started using these fake babies to teach students what it is like to have a real baby. The students must treat the fake baby as if it is a real baby, and the fake baby will cry loudly if it "needs" attention.)
After intermission, the fake baby started crying loudly (more loudly, even, than a real baby). The girl would then give the fake baby the necessary attention, but it would start crying again minutes later. This went on during the entire second half of the performance and the crying could be heard by the entire audience (consisting of less than 50 people). I am sure the dancers could hear it as well.
After the performance, my mother approached the teenager and told her it was inappropriate to bring fake babies to performances, as it not only disturbs the audience, but also the dancers. The girl's mother shrugged it off, saying, "It was for an assignment, so we don't have any control over it."
It seems to me that the girl had several options: Since she is supposed to treat the fake baby like a real baby, and one shouldn't bring a real baby to an 8 p.m. dance concert, she could have stayed home. She also could have hired a babysitter. Or she could have stepped out into the lobby once the baby started crying.
Miss Manners, how should we have handled this situation? The girl and her mother did not seem to see any problem.
GENTLE READER: That child is not learning her lesson very well, Miss Manners is afraid. Its object was to show her that having a baby would curtail her freedom to go out and have fun, not that it could accompany her in curtailing other people's fun.
But your mother is not that child's teacher, and dressing down a fellow guest after the fact is rude and ineffective. Her only usefulness would have been to re-enforce the point of the school exercise by saying sympathetically, "I remember what it's like from when my children were babies -- you have to stay home or take them away when they cry, or you get the rest of the audience angry at you."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our pastor goes on and on. He is a loving, humble man, and I would hate ?to offend him. But I'm sure 99 percent of the congregation feels the way I do. What can a congregation do about a pastor whose sermons are too long?
GENTLE READER: Commiserate with him about the short attention spans of your fellow parishioners. If he is truly humble and compassionate, he will understand.