Q: I guess I goofed, but at least I was honest. My son brought his new girlfriend with him recently when our family was celebrating my mother’s birthday at a local restaurant. Very pretty girl and very friendly. The only thing was she was wearing this dress that was so very short. My mother’s eyes rolled when she leaned over to shake hands with me. Later during the meal, she excused herself to go to the restroom. She forgot she had her napkin on her lap when she got up, and it fell to the floor. She bent over to pick it up and everyone at the table suddenly stopped talking. My son’s face got red.
I guess she suddenly figured out why we all got so quiet because she said, “Oops, I think this dress might be a little too short.” Without thinking, I blurted out, “Yes, I certainly think so.” My son looked at me and said the typical, “MOM!” She was already on her way to the restroom so I couldn’t apologize. My son immediately recommended I apologize to her when she came back to the table. I told him I thought bringing up the subject again would only embarrass her further and that it was better if we all just avoided the subject, talk about something else totally and act like we saw nothing and ignore what I had said. Everyone agreed but my son, but that’s what we did. She acted like nothing had happened either.
My plan was to apologize to her quietly as we were leaving the restaurant, but my son whisked her away while we were helping my mother. My question is: Should I have apologized to her as soon as she returned to the table in front of everyone?
A: If you had been seated next to her, you could have quietly apologized to her a few minutes after she had returned to her seat. Because she was across the table from you, it was very kind and gracious of you not to discuss the matter any further because indeed it would have been adding insult to injury. No doubt she did not want to hear anything more about the subject either.
Your plan to quietly apologize to her as everyone was dispersing was a good idea, but you did not have that opportunity either. If she is ever in your company again, and the opportunity presents itself, you may choose to apologize to her. If the situation does not present itself, do not dwell on the matter any further. Perhaps, if nothing else, this young lady learned an important lesson and that is to look at yourself in a full-length mirror before walking out the door to make certain you are dressed appropriately, including checking the length of your skirt.
Q: Stopped by my girlfriend’s house the other night to drop off something for her. Naturally, she invited me in for a few minutes to chat. I said hello to her husband because he was only a few feet away from the door. Apparently, they were in the midst of watching TV’s Matt Lauer interview the presidential candidates.
While my girlfriend and I were looking at what I brought her, her husband suddenly exploded over something that was said and turned and asked me if I didn’t agree ... yadda, yadda ... I told him I wasn’t really listening and he chided me about not wanting to comment. I told them both I had to leave and he kept insisting I stay and watch the rest of the program.
I stuck to my guns and headed for the door. He gave me a sort of aggravated look and said something like, “I can’t believe some people are not interested in listening to these candidates.” I didn’t reply, but I did say good-bye and I left. Was it impolite of me not to stay?
A: No, your actions were correct. It was not impolite of you not to stay. It was impolite of him to make the comments he made to you. The primary purpose of your visit was to talk to your girlfriend. Had it been to talk to him, he should have immediately turned off the television, muted it, or at least turned down the sound to the lowest possible decibel to allow an actual conversation to take place.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.