Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

October 8, 2009

Wisdom From Miss Manners

Dear Miss Manners:

I'm a recent college graduate in my mid-20s. I make a modest but comfortable salary and have been supporting myself since I finished school.

As a fairly "new" adult, I have repeatedly found myself in situations where I feel I am in awkward limbo between young person and equal, uncertain how to behave.

For example, when dining out with people in my parents' generation (friends' parents, my superiors at work, etc.), I am never sure whether I should offer to pay or cover the tip. I don't want to act like a spoiled child, but I also don't want to offend anyone by presuming to be their equal when I've only just started out in my career and adult life. I certainly don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.

Could you please offer some advice on how a young adult such as myself should act in the company of older acquaintances and colleagues? I am at a loss.

Gentle Reader:

On the contrary. You have already accomplished the most difficult part of this transition: recognizing that you are an adult.

Many people never do, Miss Manners regrets to observe. There seem to be a lot of overaged spoiled children around, who feel forever exempt from reciprocating the generosity of their elders.

With your superiors at work, the key question is whether they are taking you out on an expense account to discuss work, in which case you owe only thanks. If not, you pay your own share.

Check-grabbing contests with your friends' parents and other social contacts are not graceful. What would be graceful would be to issue an occasional invitation to those who have entertained you. That it will not be in the same style is unimportant -- they will be immensely flattered at the sign that you enjoy their company, not just the meals they provide. Do it within your own price range -- perhaps for a drink, or tea, or brunch at your place.

If that is impossible, alternative forms of reciprocation could be occasionally bringing a small present, such as a book or DVD you think they might enjoy, or insisting on helping them with a problem they happen to mention (with a computer or new cellphone, or gardening or taxes -- whatever you can do that they admit is driving them crazy).
(From this week's column)

I love Miss Manner's answer here; it seems to strike exactly the right note. I have often found myself in a similar situation. It's hard enough to deal with the check when you're out to dinner with peers, let alone when you're out with friends parents, or colleagues, etc. I always make an effort to read the signs--do they grab the check and take care of it without a second glance? (Even bosses have done this, on numerous occasions, and I always wished I could reciprocate!) So then I am gracious and grateful.

But I especially love her final point. Even if you can't actually reciprocate, send a note of thanks, or a little gift. It never hurts to send something along saying "This reminded me of you." Graciousness ought to be at the top of a woman's virtues.

1 comment:

Buttercup said...

Interesting post. As an older person I like to treat, tip and all. But a note is nice and even nicer is an invitation. It doesn't have to be for a meal, coffee is fine and very much appreciated. In this case it's really the thought that counts. When I do treat I feel that I'm paying back relatives and family friends that have been so nice to me over the years.

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