DEAR MISS MANNERS: One thing I love about my husband is that he loves people. He and a few of the men at our church usually refer to their wives as “Mama” when talking about us: “Oh, Mama’s hungry; you better go feed her.” “You better check with Mama first,” etc.
Because we are a very close group of friends, it doesn’t bother me. My husband also tends to call other women Mamas as a term of endearment, but for the women who have been in his life a long time and the women in the family, I don’t mind.
But it really bothered me when we went to lunch and he said it to a complete stranger, our waitress, as he thanked her for simply doing her job. Immediately he looked at me to see how I would react. I played it off as if I didn’t hear or it didn’t bother me by not acknowledging it.
He typically doesn’t do this in front of me to complete strangers, but now I feel he does it when I’m not around. Do you think I’m wrong to be bothered by this?
GENTLE READER: Has he considered that the ladies he so addresses might be bothered by this? If he loves people, surely he wouldn’t want to offend any.
True, many probably accept it as a kindly meant colloquialism. Some might consider it patronizing. But one day he is going to say “Mama” to a stranger who has suffered a miscarriage, who will burst into tears.
It will be difficult to curb this, but Miss Manners suggests saying lovingly that you regard it as an intimate term of endearment, and hope he will keep it in the family.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are part of a group of about 20 who have been invited to the same home, by the same host and hostess, for a New Year’s Eve dinner and celebration for about 40 years. Good friends, good food and great stories. There are occasional neighbors or newer friends of the hosting couple, but the core is the old crowd from our childhood and their spouses.
Now one of the crowd called and said that they felt that each of us should bring the hostess a small gift to show appreciation for all the years of her having us to their home. I was a bit taken back, as we are all so close and entertain each other at our own homes a few times a year, although the New Year’s party is this couple’s only group gathering.
Knowing them as I do, they will be embarrassed, if not upset, with the gifts. We will go along, but only with a donation to a very needy charitable organization.
GENTLE READER: But why will you go along with something you feel will embarrass your friends?
You are old friends of the others, and should have felt obligated to tell them that their well-meant gesture was likely to have an effect opposite to their intention. Miss Manners is afraid that people often shut down their judgment when generosity is suggested, for fear of looking cheap.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)