DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my mother was visiting for the weekend, we ran into one of my neighbors, who had met my mother once prior. As we were getting into my car, the neighbor waved and said, "Hi, Mom!"
My mother thought that was very insincere and that the neighbor should have remembered her name from their first meeting months ago. She went on to say that "Mom" is reserved only for her children and spouses of her children.
I totally disagreed and felt that the neighbor calling "Hi, Mom" was somewhat a term of endearment and was better than just waving or not saying anything at all. Thoughts?
GENTLE READER: The line between friendliness and impertinence is getting thinner and thinner. And contrary to the usual development of vision, it is harder for the young to see than for older people.
Miss Manners agrees that the neighbor meant well, that calling a greeting was better than ignoring your mother, and that he or she cannot reasonably be expected to have remembered your mother's name.
That said, your mother had a reason to be upset. She was being patronized. It is not endearing for an outsider to assume use of an intimate form of address; it is cheeky. The implication is that she is some sort of generic mother.
Probably, however, the nice neighbor merely registered the fact that the lady is your mother and blurted that out. At least that is the possibility that Miss Manners suggests emphasizing to your mother.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Who should a husband seat first at the dinner table, his mother or his wife?
GENTLE READER: Whoever is older.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter, who is 33 and has been married for 13 years, with two children, is about to graduate from college. She, of course, wants to celebrate with a nice party. She has asked for my help.
What is my obligation financially to her, if any? I'm on a limited budget and cannot afford the party she deserves and wants. What is the proper etiquette?
GENTLE READER: Etiquette could hardly call itself proper if it tried to make people spend money they could ill afford.
Parents are obligated to feed, clothe and educate their children until they come of age. It would be nice if they also civilized them, teaching them consideration of others. But at no time are they obligated to give them parties. Even birthday parties for young children and first weddings, however charming, are discretionary.
Miss Manners would like to believe that what your daughter meant was that she would like your expert advice. But if not, you might volunteer the excellent advice -- just the sort that parents ought to teach -- that one should live within one's budget.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it OK to ask guests attending a college graduation to pay for their own dinner afterward? The dinner will be at a restaurant, and we have estimated the cost for 14 people to be $1,000 excluding gratuity.
GENTLE READER: Do you understand that these people could in no way be considered your guests? And will you please make that clear to them beforehand? Miss Manners has heard too many laments from people who thought they were invited out, only to be handed a bill.
(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.)