To shake, or not to shake...

My boss is furious with me because I wouldn’t shake hands with a client who had just sneezed into his hands. I was thinking of the germs, not that it was insulting. Was it?

Yes, it is always insulting when someone refuses to shake hands unless a good reason is stated: “I’m so sorry, but I have a sprained wrist and just can’t shake hands, but I’m so pleased to meet you.” In your situation, you would shake hands and then, being careful not to put your hands near your face, excuse yourself as soon as it would be polite to do so, and go to the restroom and wash your hands.

Looking ahead to spring break, we are planning a trip to the beach in Florida. Our daughter, who is 9, would have a lot more fun if a friend was with her and we’d love to invite her best friend along, but don’t know what to do about her costs. I’m thinking if we are issuing an invitation then we are the hosts and we pay her costs, but my husband thinks we should ask the friend’s parents for money to cover her costs. What is the right thing to do?

You are correct, that as the hosts, you would ordinarily pay your daughter’s friend’s costs. However, since this is an extended trip, you could say to her parents that you would love to have her along, and will cover all the expenses, but it would be great if they could pay her airfare or some other big expense item. If they can’t do that, then it is your choice as to whether you pick up the cost. Considering that they might say no, you would have this conversation before discussing the idea with the girls, so if it doesn’t work, they aren’t terribly disappointed and so no one is blamed for it not working out.

I was taught that the host of a restaurant meal ordered for his date, or for everyone at the table. The other night, I ordered for my date who called me a sexist control freak. What did I do wrong?

You did nothing wrong, going by 20th Century standards, but times have changed enough that it is not at all uncommon for women to order their own meals. The host of a table may still offer to order for whoever he’s with, but no longer assumes everyone wants him to do this. Practicing what you though were correct manners did not make you sexist, or a control freak, but next time you might ask, “May I order for you?” instead of assuming that you should.

How do I introduce my brother’s long-time live-in? Do I call her his partner, or girlfriend, or what?

Simply introduce her by name. It is never necessary to provide a label. If she, or your brother, want to elaborate on their relationship, they can, using their own terms.

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