DEAR MISS MANNERS: What are my polite options when two people on either side of my seat lean across me and talk to each other for an extended conversation? (I am the stranger; they seem to know each other.) This has happened on airplanes, at children’s programs and at the opera.
I’d like to be friendly, but often one person holds my arm back to keep me out of their way! I object to the touching, and also, of course, to the assumption that I don’t exist or don’t matter. I’ve pulled out a book and positioned it strategically on a plane, to some effect, but this isn’t appropriate at performances. Must I simply endure until they are finished?
GENTLE READER: Offer to change seats. This is more likely to be accepted in theaters than on airplanes, where no one wants the middle seat. But if you stand up and move into the aisle when you offer, Miss Manners would think they would find it awkward not to accept.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve seen two professional orchestral conductors wearing a white cummerbund with the white tie and tails of a man’s formal evening suit. Is the white pique waistcoat no longer the proper garment to wear with this suit? Fortunately, conductors have their back turned to us most of the time.
GENTLE READER: Fortunately. You are correct, but Miss Manners has seen worse on podiums, where a male desire to mess with formality has spread from the red carpet. A charitable explanation would be that the waistcoat somehow restricts those wildly waving arms.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband’s good friend is getting married to someone I have never been comfortable with; something about her did not feel right. When the invitation was received, my first and last name were spelled wrong, while my husband’s were not.
My husband got upset and emailed his friend, who responded, “not my lane.” There have been a few emails back and forth, with the last one offering to resend the invitation.
At this point, I am not wanting to attend the wedding because I feel this was intentional. Has this gone too far? Am I being too sensitive? Does the Big Day trump courtesy and etiquette?
GENTLE READER: Are you spoiling for a fight?
Call her naive, but Miss Manners has a hard time imagining any bride chortling as she deliberately misspells a guest’s name, thinking, “That’ll show her what I think of her.”
For that matter, your letter contained a misspelling and a missing apostrophe, which Miss Manners kindly supplied. But now you are worrying her: Had you put them there in order to insult her?
It is unpleasant to have one’s name misspelled, and people are often shockingly careless about their guest lists. But while having a Big Day is no excuse, it is hard to interpret extending a wedding invitation as a hostile act worthy of destroying a friendship. However, your husband might try pleading having had a Bad Day to excuse his quibbling to his friend.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)