DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it ever acceptable to remove food from one’s teeth at the table? I have extremely uneven teeth, and invariably have food showing after I’ve eaten -- in places where it cannot be dislodged by a sweep of the tongue.
Ordinarily, I retreat to the ladies’ room immediately following a meal to remove any bits of remaining food. But I serve on a nonprofit board of directors, and in the circumstance of our meetings, I would risk missing important information -- or worse, being absent when it is my turn to report.
I carry floss and toothpicks, but was raised that it’s extremely rude to conduct this bit of grooming at the table (although I do see others do it from time to time). Yet I am mortified to think that I might be speaking and smiling among a group with food visible on my teeth.
Of course, we are not currently meeting in person, but the thought of facing this issue again when in-person meetings are permitted causes some anxiety. I welcome your advice.
GENTLE READER: Perfect the move of appearing as though you are retrieving something in your purse beneath the seat, and then quickly flossing until you have time to retreat to the ladies’ room.
Miss Manners warns you that this must be deftly performed so as not to concern your lunch partners that something more untoward is happening under the table. Fortunately, you have lots of time at home to practice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was invited to go out on a date, just for a bite to eat and a movie. I was polite and brought flowers. Then the person who took me out said that I was to pay for everything.
Is that a rude revelation? I get stuck with the bill for dinner, a movie and drinks, when the one who asked me out demands that I pay? Is that totally right?
If I ask the person out for coffee or lunch/dinner, I often say that I will pick up the tab the first time, then let the other person pick it up the second time.
I get flattered when asked out, but then shocked and embarrassed when they act like I’m Mr. Moneybags. What are your thoughts and suggestions?
GENTLE READER: It is never polite to invite someone to pay for your dinner and evening’s entertainment --particularly by ambushing someone into doing so.
Your friend might think that she is adhering to outdated gender roles -- or was confused in that regard by the flowers you brought.
But Miss Manners assures you that paying is the responsibility of the person who issues the invitation. If the relationship moves forward and the requests become more mutual, alternating the generosity, as you propose, is acceptable.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: There is a grandbaby in the family. The mother is my sister’s daughter. I am not the grandmother; what is my title?
GENTLE READER: Great-aunt. But only time, and your relationship, will tell if Grand ultimately outranks Great.
(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.)