DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I are part of a close-knit group of five couples. We all socialize often, whether in our various homes or out doing some recreational activity.
One of our gentleman friends is truly a very nice person: friendly, considerate, good sense of humor and an animal lover (cats, anyway). However, at all of our social functions, his dress consists of shorts, a sloppy T-shirt and tennis shoes, usually without socks. That would be fine for a backyard barbecue, but that is his uniform for all occasions -- birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and even major holiday dinners where I feel something “nicer” is in order.
At special occasions, the host couples have gone to great lengths to prepare a festive dinner on nice tableware. I feel his dress is insulting -- not only to the host, but also to the honoree or the occasion/holiday itself. When we are dining at a restaurant -- not an old-fashioned “coat and tie required” place, but still semi-upscale -- he is again in shorts and a T-shirt, and I again feel embarrassed.
In every other way, as I said, he’s a great guy. I wouldn’t want to hurt or insult him. Any suggestions for a mannerly approach? Or should I just ignore this?
GENTLE READER: You cannot tell an adult to whom you are not related how to dress. And unless the event is black- or white-tie, you cannot really even politely put it in your invitations (“festive” is not a dress code).
Miss Manners is afraid that you will have to learn to live with it. Clearly this gentleman’s other half has.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son is getting married soon to a lady I’ve not yet met, although we have spoken on the phone several times. My issue is that I do not want my new daughter-in-law to call me “Mom.”
My son was very briefly married once before (now divorced), and that daughter-in-law called me “Mom” without an invitation to do so, at least not from me. I believe my son may have instructed her to do so. When we met, I said, “Hello, I’m Mabel Jo” so that she would understand I did not want her to have to address me formally as “Mrs. X.”
How can I tactfully request that his new wife not call me “Mom”? It has nothing to do with her, I just don’t like the practice.
GENTLE READER: Talk to your son. It sounds to Miss Manners as if he may have been the one who planted the “Mom” idea with the first wife. Explain that you would like the honor of asking his prospective wife to call you by your first name. Surely he would not dream of depriving you of that familial moment.
If he protests that he finds “Mom” to be more intimate, you may delicately point out that there were a lot of things that did not work the first time around. You are generously sparing him one of them.