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20-40-60 Etiquette---Is someone in your space?


By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace



QUESTION: Usually when I find an empty seat at the movies, I choose one with a seat between me and the next person, because I have been in a situation once or twice where the person next to me uses both armrests and there is none available for me. How should I handle the situation if the movie theater is full and I get to sit by someone who grabs up all the room available for seating?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: I AGREE, leave a seat open between you and the next person! I don’t want to sit next to a rando! If the movie theater isn’t crowded, then I don’t see why people don’t do this.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I think you just have to sit down and say nicely, “excuse me,” hoping that they’ll adjust to make room for you. If you have a drink and both cup holders are full, you may have to ask politely if people on one side of you or another can move theirs down one so you can have a cup holder, and, by default, an armrest. In crowds, we all have to accommodate to make room for everyone. Occasionally you’ll encounter a rude person who won’t budge, but generally, people are pretty understanding.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Sometimes we do need our space. Maybe you could say, “could we take turns using the armrest?” It is annoying to sit by someone who takes up all the room available for him and for you too. If you can, try to sit where you can place a seat between you and the other person.

Auditorium seating poses the same problems, and it is up to you to communicate with the people around you to gain some seating comfort.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker who has taught etiquette classes at Oklahoma Christian University: My first choice would be to move to another spot, but if the theater was completely full, I would say to the person sitting next to me, in a lighthearted tone, “Hey, it sure is tight in here. I am happy to share this armrest with you, or we can take turns using it.” Most likely they will just give you the armrest because you were friendly.

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›

Lillie-Beth Brinkman

Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman Read more ›

Callie Athey

Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a... Read more ›