Published On: Tue, Dec 12th, 2023

Miss Manners: A couples dinner party features a guest coming alone

Miss Manners: A couples dinner party features a guest coming alone
Miss Manners: A couples dinner party features a guest coming alone


Dear Miss Manners: I am in a pickle. Every year, my family hosts a formal, multiple-course Christmas dinner for our closest friends. We are limited to nine couples at the table. We usually have more friends than we have seats. We request RSVPs early so we can invite other couples in case somebody cannot make it.

This year, we invited two new couples (having to remove two couples who attended prior). One of them replied that just one person is attending because her significant other will not be around. What do I do now? Throw the party even though she will be the only “solo” person, or explain it is a couples party and move to the next couple?

What you can do is to rid yourself of the concept of a “couples party.” Miss Manners doubts you are playing bridge on Christmas and can think of no other decent activity that requires guests to attend in pairs.

Dear Miss Manners: When I refer to doctors, whether in an email or in person, I use “Dr.” and their last names, as I assume most people do. What is the proper way of addressing a nurse, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant?

They have all put a lot of effort into earning their degrees, but “Physician’s Assistant Smith” seems awkward, and the usual “Ms./Mr.” does not acknowledge their degrees at all. Even though they want to call me by my first name, I prefer not to do the same. Would Miss Manners offer a solution?

“Physician’s assistant” only sounds awkward until everybody gets used to it. The profession ought to be teaching them to do so. On a letter, you could put “P.A.” Miss Manners is less interested in professionals displaying what degrees they earned than she is in patients knowing where they are in the medical hierarchy.

Badges and explanations help, but a title establishes the answer to, “Who is this person in the examining room?” First names are not the solution for anyone involved in this situation. When you are concerned about your health, you want a skilled professional, not a new friend. And when you are wearing a hospital gown, you are in severe need of whatever dignity an impersonal, professional attitude can confer.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a receptionist at a surgical center who checks in many patients each day. On occasion, the person I check in turns out to be a doctor and often becomes offended that I do not address them as “Dr.” rather than by their name.

There is not any indication of their profession on their licenses or insurance cards (I have checked!), and that is usually the only information I have about them, so I am unsure how they think I would know. These doctors get so upset and it sets us off on the wrong foot. Do you have any advice for how to repair the unavoidable insult?

Are they really that haughty as to assume you would recognize their status without any documentation or other signs? Just by the authoritative aura they admit you have not insulted these people. It is only necessary to say, “Yes, doctor.” And Miss Manners hopes that they address you formally as well.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.


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