DEAR MISS MANNERS: Suppose one was a gentleman invited to a formal dinner party. One arrives at the appointed time, checks the seating chart in the hallway, picks up his tiny envelope and finds the name of his dinner partner on a card inside, and dutifully ignores her all through drinks.
Then, the butler (or gong) calls for dinner. Does a gentleman then seek out his dinner partner and escort her into the dining room, or should he escort his own escort into the dining room, leaving her to attend to his dinner partner's chair? I don't suppose this will be imperative to know at most of the parties to which I'll go this year, but one never knows.
GENTLE READER: No, one never knows, which, Miss Manners supposes, is why we all rush to get the mail. Some day, among the catalogues and bills, there will be a creamy envelope with an engraved invitation to dinner, and one should be prepared.
A gentleman's duty to the lady with whom he arrives consists of handing her out of the car, opening all doors in her way, helping her out of her coat, taking her through the receiving line, seeing that she is served a drink, and making sure that she has found people with whom to talk.
Then -- nothing until he reverses the procedure, parks her glass, helps her back on with her coat and so on. A dinner party should not be mistaken for a restaurant or club, where a couple goes to enjoy each other's company.
His duty to his dinner partner is first, as you point out, to avoid her. The idea is not to use up the supply of mutually interesting topics prematurely, because he will be talking to her for half the rest of the evening regardless.
He should manage to find her and introduce himself just before being called to dinner. He may give her his arm to escort her in. Having perused the seating chart, he will lead her to her place without having to lean over and squint at the place cards, push in her chair and pick up her evening bag, which has slid off her lap.
Meanwhile, his own lady will have been looked after by her own dinner partner. The original couple's shared fun comes after the party, when they will have twice as much gossip to giggle over as they would have had if they had unsociably stuck together.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper etiquette when eating in a coffee shop restaurant where paper napkins are used?
I put it beside my plate when the meal is finished. My friend said she had been told to put it on the empty plate. To me it looks awful to have a soiled napkin on top of a soiled plate.
GENTLE READER: Actually, it is not a soiled napkin so much as a bit of paper trash. But if we are to pretend that it is a napkin, as Miss Manners supposes we must in the absence of decent linen, you have identified the proper place for it to be placed.