DEAR MISS MANNERS: While at a family reunion on the opposite coast, I took my brother to the airport 100 miles away. I called a friend (female) who lives 20 miles from said airport, whom I met years previous, and asked if she would like to tag along.
Though we have kept in touch, I have never as much as kissed this woman and haven't been in her presence since we met.
When we arrived to pick her up, she was incensed that my brother didn't immediately get in the back seat, knowing that she was coming out, and said that, as a woman, etiquette would require him to do so.
I am not in a "relationship" with this woman, so to me it seems that would just label her as a friend, which has no gender limitations.
Since my brother was the one I was performing the service for, it seems as if the front seat was his, and it was his choice to relinquish or not (which he did after an intense spat, only out of respect for me).
The aftermath has caused mild friction between my brother and me, as well as impacted my relationship with my platonic female friend. What would etiquette dictate as the proper protocol?
GENTLE READER: Etiquette dictates that you look at this situation for what it was, and not confuse it with your and your friend's peculiar ideas about gender. Miss Manners hardly knows which claim is more askew -- that gender is the paramount factor here, or that gender counts only when there are kisses.
Your friend should have sat next to you because you had proposed the driving time as a visit, and it is awkward to hold a conversation from the back seat. Had you wanted to spend the time chiefly with your brother, you should not have invited a guest.
So you both behaved badly, as did your brother, squabbling to keep what all of you apparently consider a place of honor. Had Miss Manners been in the car, she would have been tempted to say, "Now, children, behave yourselves, all of you, or I'm turning this car around right now."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it proper to send a sympathy card to the family of a person who committed suicide?
GENTLE READER: No; a heartfelt letter. At least Miss Manners hopes that this is what you wanted settled. Surely you are not questioning whether this family is in need of sympathy.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: If you tell someone that dinner is at 6 p.m., that you will sit down to eat at 6 p.m., what time should you expect your guests to arrive?
GENTLE READER: Late. If they followed your instructions, they would all be backed up on the front porch, and it would take a while to get them all through the door and to the table.
Miss Manners is no proponent of lateness, especially when it is ridiculously called fashionable. But have a little regard here for human nature and traffic. If you want to serve dinner at 6, invite your guests for 5:15.
Miss Manners is the pseudonym of Judith Martin. Miss Manners runs Mondays and Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.