Thursday, February 18, 2010


(sometimes she may even be right)

Dear Joan,

I was at a dinner party last night and the man on my right is a very big deal in the city. I asked him some a few political questions and instead of answering me, he directed his response to the man on my left and another man across the table. Hello!? I was the one who asked the question. Why was I suddenly invisible? Is it me or do these men have a problem?

Stymied In Soho

Dear Stymied,

It’s not you. There is a group of men, some of them in very important positions in New York City, who don’t have a clue about how to behave with women in a social situation. Unfortunately, you got two of them. In the future, if one of your dinner partners (and it is hoped, only one) is this difficult, smile politely, say “excuse me” and turn the person on your other side and talk to him. Or her. Life is too short to spend too much time and effort on someone so oblivious to others. Last month, I had a dinner partner who showed a total lack of interest in anything I had to say but by the time the salad course was served, I knew the cost of his son’s SAT tutor, the location of his mother-in-law’s Aspen condo and that his wife’s Bolivian aromatherapist married a gay man for a green card. And for the next generation of mothers, make certain that your sons know the rules; that even if you have to fake it, ask questions and listen to what the woman sitting beside you is saying. Eleven o’clock always comes around.

Dear Joan,

Just before Memorial Day, a friend invited my husband and me to a dinner party.  I accepted and then, five days before the date, I called our hostess to tell her that my husband had an emergency business meeting on that same date and he was so sorry but he would not be able to attend. She said, “Oh, well, maybe we’ll see you another time. Have a good summer,” and she hung up. I never dreamed that I would not be welcome without my husband. Did I make a mistake here, assuming that I could attend on my own?

Vexed in the Village 

Dear Vexed,

The mistake here was made by your hostess.  She had invited both you and your husband and she was both rude and unkind to tell you that you couldn’t attend as a single woman.  I have yet to give a dinner party where at least one man didn’t pull out at the last minute for whatever reason and of course his wife is still invited.  And maybe she’ll only have a man on one side and a woman on the other but that doesn’t matter. 

One asks people to parties because they enjoy and contribute to conversations, not so that the seating configuration will adhere to some silly idea of a boy/girl, boy/girl seating arrangement.  My hope is that you never invite that woman and her husband to your house for dinner. 

Dear Joan,

I’m thirty-eight years old and I’ve been dating the same man for three years. I want to get married and have children and this guy won’t budge. He either changes the subject when I bring it up, or he says he just needs some time. I need some time, too, to have a family. What should I do?

Annoyed on Eighty-sixth Street

Dear Annoyed,

Your future shouldn’t be only his decision. Tell him that you want to get married and start a family and that if he doesn’t want to be a part of it, you’re not going to waste any more time on him. Stop seeing him and don’t take his calls. Don’t be rude; be cheerful but busy. This may bring him around and make him realize that he doesn’t want to lose you. If it doesn’t, you’re free to begin a new adventure and start having babies before your free subscription to AARP magazine arrives.

Dear Joan,

May I email a thank-you note to my hostess after a dinner party? Some of my friends say only a hand-written note is acceptable and that it’s also insulting to email my thanks for parties and presents. What do you think?

Flummoxed On Fifth

Dear Flummoxed,

I think your friends are cranky and unreasonable. Of course, you can email a thank-you note. It’s the message, not the medium, that counts. An email that you send to your hostess within an hour of being at her party or dinner is much more immediate and compelling than one that’s written days later.

After a birthday party, who wants to sit down and write out fifteen thank-you notes when you can email your thanks quickly and efficiently.

And because you can edit your words and play with your sentences, it will probably be better written than the days before email. (And who actually owns a stamp these days?)

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