DEAR MISS MANNERS: Now that people are encouraged to turn off their cell phones in restaurants and movie theaters, the custom is to communicate with text messages.
I have a friend who I get together with only about four times a year because of our busy schedules. We get together for dinner and shopping or for a few days at the beach. I look forward to catching up with my friend, and I assume that my friend will give me her full time and attention.
Unfortunately, thanks to text messaging, this is no longer the case. Last summer, when we were at the beach having dinner, my friend was preoccupied with her phone. She stared at it constantly.
She sent and returned e-mails even while at the beach. She liked a new guy and was hoping to hear from him, so she was always checking her phone, even while chatting with me. The same thing happened when we were at the movies a few months ago. My friend was texting another friend about our activities.
I want to say something to my friend so that she realizes her behavior makes me feel ignored, but I don't know what to say. Everyone except me seems to be obsessed with their cell phones these days.
Could you please advise me on the correct manners for the use of cell phones and text messaging, and could you also help me deal with my cell phone-obsessed friend?
GENTLE READER: Here we go again. Every time there is a new toy, people imagine that it is not covered by existing etiquette rules and therefore they feel free to use it to annoy other people.
So it was with cellular telephones. And, as you point out, people still need to be reminded not to use their telephones to violate the old rules against disturbing others with noise and ignoring people who have a claim on their attention.
Well, guess what? Texting also comes under the latter rule. Nobody sympathizes more than Miss Manners with the tedium of having to make this point to people who aren't paying attention. You could patiently explain that the idea of those jaunts is to get away from your ordinary demands so that you can enjoy each other's company undisturbed. You could propose specific times for checking in with others so that you can also have time together free of virtual visiting with others.
But if she looks at you vaguely while keeping her fingers on her telephone keyboard, Miss Manners suggests that you rethink this year's beach outing. It cannot be entertaining for you to be with someone who isn't really there.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: After I have attended a wedding as a guest of the bride, I write a simple, informal thank you note to the parents (hosts), mentioning the lovely day, pretty bride, thanking them for including me in their special event, etc. At a recent luncheon with several friends, this came up (can't remember why or how), and everyone (including the recipient of one of my notes) agreed that I was acting in an affected manner by doing this. Am I?
GENTLE READER: Did you thank your friends for their kind concern?
While it is not obligatory to send written thanks after attending a wedding -- because it is not a form of pure entertainment, but a ceremony -- Miss Manners would never call it affected. Those who do betray their eagerness to dumb down behavior to their own level.