DEAR MISS MANNERS: I accompanied my boyfriend to an inaugural ball where he had many responsibilities and was very busy. In an effort to be supportive, I would sometimes hover near him or walk around the party.
For the majority of the evening, I was neglected. I wasn't introduced to anyone at the reception. And at our dinner table, the other guests were staff members who were also very busy. I introduced myself to a few people, but the party was chaotic and folks were cliquey. Afterward, my boyfriend didn't acknowledge my patience.
Is this what is expected of a supportive partner? To be quiet and understanding? Or should my boyfriend have done more to include me? Should I not go to these events in the future? I think next time, though, I'll be more emotionally prepared for what kind of evening to expect.
GENTLE READER: That would be wise. Once you stop thinking of it as a dance date and start thinking of it as accompanying your beau to work, your expectations will be different. If you can find enjoyment there on your own, and perhaps even be a help to him, you should go; if not, Miss Manners advises you to skip such events.
Whether or not you go, a supportive partner would avoid adding to the on-duty person's responsibilities by being another person to worry about. So if you stay at home, do so cheerfully, asking for a debriefing later; and if you go, be prepared to get around on your own.
While many people attend such events in self-contained cliques, there are always a few wallflower couples. You can spot them darting their eyes around, searching for someone they know, while desperately trying to look as if they are having an animated conversation with each other. They will be grateful if you approach them, and you may meet some interesting people.
A better reward than having your beau thank you for your patience will be his reporting back how charming people say you are.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son is now 22 years old and will be graduating from college. Throughout his formative years, his friends always called us Mr. or Mrs. Smith.
However, now most of them are graduating, moving on to full-time jobs, getting married and starting families, etc. At what point do they start calling me by my first name, John, and how do I relay to them that I am comfortable with this new social convention? At this stage in their lives, having seen their many accomplishments to date, I consider them peers.
GENTLE READER: When you ask them. Well, maybe sometime after that, when they get used to the idea.
When properly made, this request is flattering. You should explicitly say, "Now that you are an adult, I wish you would call me John." This will distinguish the compliment from the self-centered requests -- that the formal name "makes me feel old" or the even sillier "Mr. Smith is my father" -- that grown-ups now make to children.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)