DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our 26-year-old son lives out of state in San Francisco where unfortunately (from our point of view as traditional parents) he has partially gone native by having what we hope will be his first and last live-in girlfriend / concubine / mistress / future-spouse / POSSLQ.
How can we continue to show him a proper mix of parental affection and disapproval?
We are planning to visit his part of the country soon. He proposes bringing his live-in along to overnight stays in a resort, while I'm not inclined to socialize with her until she's an honest woman, or our son is on his deathbed.
However, I don't particularly want to push them into each other's arms, because I don't think our son is yet mature enough to marry, nor do I think they are all that suited to each other. I think both are losing out by not continuing to court rather than to make a decision that forecloses this possibility. Their affairs are beginning to entangle, e.g., a car they own together.
GENTLE READER: Would you mind sorting out your emotions a bit so that Miss Manners can figure out what it is that you do want?
You say you want to show affection for your son, but you are able to picture him on his deathbed.
You say you want to snub the, ah, co-owner of his car, but would accept her as a daughter-in-law (presumably what you mean by "an honest woman"), without considering whether, after such treatment, she would be willing to accept you.
Miss Manners cannot reconcile all that with a line of behavior. But if it would be of help, she can advise you about how to keep from alienating this couple -- yes, both of them -- while not conferring your blessing on their living arrangements.
Invite them to join you at the resort, ordering two rooms for them, preferably at some distance from your own. Treat your son's guest with gallant courtesy, as if this were the traditional type of courtship of which you approve. At any hint of its being otherwise, you should exhibit a bit of embarrassed confusion and change the subject.
Thus it will seem cruel and crude if they flaunt the situation, rather than respecting, if not acceding to, your standards. At the small price of seeming quaint, you will have registered your point without insulting someone to whom you may find yourself related.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We were meeting a new couple that we had corresponded with over the Internet at a nice restaurant. Early in the dinner (after appetizers but before entrees), the woman slipped on the way to the bathroom and severely sprained her knee.
An ambulance was called and the boyfriend drove their car to the hospital with her. Once they had left, we somewhat awkwardly had our entrees and dessert, paid the bill and left. Should we have abandoned the dinner after the accident? If these were close friends, we absolutely would've gone to the hospital with them, but we had just met these people for the first time.
GENTLE READER: And did you really finish your meals in comfort with all those people looking at you?
Not that Miss Manners thinks that your behavior should be regulated by the glances of bystanders. But she would be looking askance at you herself -- and asking if the strangers needed help.