DEAR MISS MANNERS: Today, at a local restaurant, a couple at another table paid for our lunch (my sister and me).
We did not find this out until after they had left and we were preparing to pay our bill, so I didn’t get to thank them.
My question is: Should I have left a tip for our server?
GENTLE READER: That your unnamed benefactors may have already left a tip is less important than that they may not have.
Think of it this way: If you both leave tips for the same meal, the server, like yourself, will have come into a welcome and unexpected bonus. If neither of you tips, the server will have been shortchanged while you go home whistling.
Miss Manners prefers the former.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a date with a guy I met three years ago. We have communicated on and off, and now he is coming to town and has asked me out.
The date is on his birthday, and I don’t know if I should do something for him!
GENTLE READER: Asking someone for a first — or first-in-a-while — date on one’s birthday is like bringing along your parents: It skips necessary steps on the way to developing a relationship.
For that reason, Miss Manners would have changed the day, had she known. Since it is too late for that, you should bring a token gift — inexpensive and lighthearted — while he should insist that he has never attached much importance to the day (which is not really plausible, as he must have been the one who told you).
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am the proud grandmother of five grandchildren. Four of them range in age from 10 to 20.
The fifth one passed away at 5 weeks old. She was born with a rare, complex, congenital heart abnormality. She fought really hard and endured 12 open-heart surgeries in her short life. She would now be 13 if she had lived.
People often ask me how many grandchildren I have. I usually say five, and that often segues into being asked for their ages.
I feel awkward giving the ages for four grandchildren, then explaining that one passed away. I don’t always really want to discuss it with people I don’t know, and I also don’t want to seem like I’m asking for sympathy.
At the same time, it doesn’t feel right not to acknowledge that I have another granddaughter. She deserves to be recognized as one of my grandchildren, even if it’s just in a passing conversation.
What would be the best way for me to address this to inquirers in a way that doesn’t ignore my granddaughter, but respectfully nips the conversation?
GENTLE READER: There is no disrespect in failing to mention a significant tragedy in a casual conversation. If anything, Miss Manners would have said the reverse: that the loss of your granddaughter at such a young age is too personal to share with a stranger.
The ages of your grandchildren “range from 10 to 20,” which is likely as much detail as is of interest to the inquirer.
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.