DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I fly, I like to sit in the window seat. I enjoy the light, the additional space, the quiet away from the aisle and especially the view. From plane windows, I have seen the Grand Canyon, the Alps, a comet, towering thunderclouds with lightning flashes, and many other wonders.
Occasionally a person sitting next to me asks me to close the window so that they can watch a movie. I don’t want to. They can watch the movie anytime, but my show exists only at 35,000 feet.
I have tried to explain, but I often just cave in. Is there a polite way for me to handle this and still get my view?
GENTLE READER: In the days when paper airplane tickets were ubiquitous, airlines were happy to print unpleasant truths on the back, albeit in grammatically tortured, microscopic print.
Miss Manners recalls that the substance was that your flight may not leave on time — or at all; that it may leave without you or your baggage; or that worse things may happen en route.
What should have been included was that you will have to suspend, for a time, normal expectations about your control of the space around you — or to put it more succinctly, to share.
Tell your seatmate you are happy to close the shade during his movie but would like to have it open as you cross the mountains, or whenever the movement of the aircraft suggests there is something worth seeing.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was talking with a colleague the other day when he referred to his “baby mama” and how he had helped her through a recent illness. Upon the conclusion of our conversation, I wished him and his “friend and, uh, baby mama” (mumbled) good health.
I love that families come in all shapes and sizes, but I have a hard time with the term “baby mama.” It is grammatically incorrect. Besides that, was it a demotion to call her a “friend”? Or does “baby mama” imply that she and my colleague have no greater allegiance to each other than their baby?
Is it simply most polite to refer to someone by the same title with which he or she was introduced?
GENTLE READER: As your friend’s situation becomes less unusual, a respectful term to describe the mother of his child will have to be found. Miss Manners agrees that, even if one were willing to throw grammar to the wind, your friend’s nomenclature is not it.
A respectful term would not infantilize the bearer, which may be why we have no evidence that the woman in question uses it herself. There are many grammatical ways to avoid using this term without the challenge of contradicting it, from “I wish you and Susan the best with little Georgie” to “That’s great! I can’t wait to meet everybody.”
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.