20-40-60 Etiquette: Ditched at dinner
QUESTION: I went out to dinner with my friend and was looking forward to being together. After we sat down, she saw some people on the other side of the room she knew and got up to go to talk to them. I sat alone for a long time. What should I have said to her when she returned? I wanted to be kind and respectable, but at the same time, it did not seem right for her to be gone that long.
CALLIE'S ANSWER: I would have gone and introduced myself to her friends. If that didn't end the conversation, at least you got to listen and partake.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Your friend should have said hello and returned to your table quickly, invited you to join them so she could introduce you to her friends or invited these friends to come meet you. Or you could have walked up to her friends and introduced yourself. Unfortunately, she left you in an awkward position of sitting alone. Surely she apologized when she got back to the table. She wasn't right, but I don't think anything you can say would have made it better. Your question — and unease in this situation — is a good reminder to everyone who runs into people they know while out with other friends.
If you want to make a strong statement, you can always walk up and excuse yourself and go home, but doing that might alter or end your friendship uncomfortably, so prepare yourself for that harsh outcome. I don't think I would want to do that; I'm sure your friend meant no harm in doing this. Maybe you could suggest inviting the other group to join you two. This is a good question without an easy answer — it is easy to understand your discomfort and to recognize what not to do. However, it is not easy to address it with a friend who did this.
HELEN'S ANSWER: I have been in that situation before, and it is strange to sit and wait for a dinner companion to return from across the room. It made me feel like I had not been very good at pre-dinner conversation. If it goes on too long, you might send the waiter to summon her for dinner, or tell her it is time to order.
Good manners should apply to all social situations. People still should treat their friends as they would want to be treated.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Kirsten Cash, speech-language pathologist: Assuming your friend politely excused herself before leaving you, she should have briefly greeted the other friends and promptly returned to you. I am not sure there is much you could have said without mis-stepping the line of decorum yourself.
Her unfortunate choice will bear its own repercussions especially when you think twice about initiating/accepting a future dinner date with her.
Callie Athey 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 email@example.com.