DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the most polite and least conspicuous way to excuse myself from the company of a business client when I find it necessary to use "the facilities"?
This pertains to the client's office and in a restaurant setting. I try to time it for the beginning (prior to being in the company of my client whenever possible) or at the end of the meeting.
I've rarely met with the most thoughtful of clients who ask prior to our sitting down together. I know there is a simple answer.
GENTLE READER: Once past toilet training, you cannot really count on others' asking you whether you need to go to the bathroom. So it is indeed necessary for you to take charge by deciding when and finding out where.
Miss Manners is pleased to observe that you understand the importance of euphemisms in this situation (although the quotation marks were unnecessary, as facilities is already a euphemism). "I have to pee now" is unlikely to be taken as a sign that you will be equally forthright and honest in your business dealings.
The simple answer is that in a restaurant, you need only say, "Excuse me." In the client's office, the statement that you would like to freshen up a bit should elicit directions.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 3-year-old cousin is our flower girl and her mom, my aunt, is my matron of honor. The problem is her mother-in-law wants to come to the wedding.
I don't want that because Kristin, the flower girl, will be wanting to be with her grandmother over my family. My family is perfectly capable of getting Kristin ready for the wedding that day, which is the reason my aunt wants her mother-in-law to come.
I'm having to watch the number of people I invite. I mentioned the problem to my grandmother, who found out the mother-in-law is coming, regardless of whether she receives an invitation.
So how do get her not to come?
GENTLE READER: Hire a bouncer?
Miss Manners strongly suggests that instead, you squeeze this lady in. As she apparently plans to attend anyway, you might as well be gracious.
This should not be taken as a general policy toward self-invited guests. Deterrents include saying, "We'd love to see you on another occasion"; enlisting a mutual friend to intimate that appearing unasked would be embarrassing; and, as a last resort, posting a neutral person, such as an employee at the site, to say, "I'm sorry, Madam, but I don't believe you are expected."
But in this case you have your matron of honor, your aunt and the child's mother all saying that it would be a good idea. True, they all are the same person -- but in a better position than you to know what will best help ensure your flower girl's happiness and good behavior. You will have to trust Miss Manners that this will be more important to you than any unseemly family rivalry for the child's attention.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)