Miss Manners: I didn’t wait for everyone to be served before eating

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Dear Miss Manners: I went out with three friends for what was billed as a chance to enjoy oysters together. When we got to the restaurant, it turned out that one of our party didn’t like oysters and decided to have a salad instead. One of our party told the waiter that we would only have the oysters and salad. I hadn’t really decided if I just wanted oysters or an oyster appetizer and something more, but I really didn’t care, so it was fine.

When the oysters arrived on two large platters, the server told the salad eater that his salad would be up to snuff. I asked if the others liked lemon, and when they said they did, I squeezed lemon on the oysters near me. I then picked up an oyster, dipped it in the sauce and ate it.

After I finished, I realized with discomfort that no one else was eating. I asked why and was told they were waiting for the other person’s salad to arrive. I was deeply embarrassed and apologized to the salad eater.

I almost always wait for everyone to be served before I start eating. But in this situation, I thought of oysters as an appetizer, which I will start eating as soon as it arrives.

If the purpose of good manners is to make people feel comfortable at the table, this behavior made me very uncomfortable.

But you asked. And I got several indications – from your friends when they ordered and from the waiter when she announced it – that the salad was supposed to be eaten at the same time as the oysters. Waiting for everyone to have something to eat was the most polite thing to do.

If your friends had rudely corrected you without prompting, Miss Manners would have taken your side. But what would you like them to say if you asked them directly?

She also warns you against weapon etiquette or viewing it as a way to comfort yourself, namely your own. You can politely make someone uncomfortable, if it’s because they were ignoring the needs of others to put their own first. That’s what your friends did – and as long as they didn’t lecture you or scold you, they were right.

Dear Miss Manners: We were at a free concert last night. Almost all seats were occupied. Starting 30 minutes before the performance and continuing until the end, it appeared that someone was saving two seats in the orchestra section. There was a large purse in one and a coat in the other.

People were looking for empty seats, but moved on after seeing that these two seats were full of belongings. After the concert, I saw the owners retrieve their purse and coat, and asked them why they put their things there. They said if anyone wanted to sit there, they could have.

Isn’t that selfish? What should I have said?

“Are these seats taken?” Ideally, you’d ask this question before spending the whole gig boiling because you already knew the answer.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at washingtonpost.com/board. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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