DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I recently entertained some family members at our home, a small gathering of 12 people. My wife's uncle brought his girlfriend he's been seeing for several months and that I met one time very briefly a couple of months ago.
When I greeted the girlfriend upon her arrival, I shook her hand. As the evening progressed, I got to know her better. When it was time for her and the uncle to leave, I wasn't sure if should shake her hand goodbye or if it was appropriate to give her a kiss on the cheek. It was rather awkward for me. What would've been the proper thing to do?
GENTLE READER: To wait to see what the lady would do. If she put out her hand, you should have shaken it; if she offered her cheek, you should have kissed it, or rather the air close to it.
Admittedly, greeting gestures are in a state of chaos at the moment. But Miss Manners assures you that there is no rule requiring you to grab your wife's uncle's girlfriend on short acquaintance. You surely could not have gotten to know her that intimately at a family gathering of a dozen people.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whenever my closest friend asks for something, I usually do my best to lend it to her, whether it is food, money or anything else.
What's the problem? She never keeps track of what she owes me.
She will borrow money and forget to pay me back. Rarely does she pay me back with cash; instead, she will buy me something, like a movie ticket, but it will always cost less than the money I gave to her.
To make matters worse, she never carries around her own cash, so whenever we go to a restaurant, I always have to foot the bill. Finally (though there are other problems), whenever we decide to pay for something together, she will always pay for the cheaper items.
I have tried to confront her about this situation before, but she would not listen. She even told me that true friends do not keep track of what they owe each other. The second time I tried to talk to her, she got so upset that she did not talk to me for a while.
We have been friends for eight years and plan on being roommates next year. I do not want to lose this relationship over something like this. I do not know what to do.
GENTLE READER: Stay up all night guarding your possessions. Or resign yourself to supporting her.
Miss Manners appreciates your affection for your friend despite that person's lack of consideration for you. Her own harshness arises from the telling fact that your friend not only refuses to discuss the matter, but rebuffed your attempts to do so with astonishing rudeness. Otherwise, you might have had a sympathetic discussion about what each of you can afford and reached a solution, such as finding less expensive quarters and having cheaper outings, so that her financial restraints would not create a burden for you.
It is true that etiquette has polite ways of jostling people of good will into realizing that they have transgressed. But when someone has repeatedly demonstrated herself to be impervious to the claims of friendship, gratitude and decency, no tactful hint is going to change her.