DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend's large, boisterous friend group meets up frequently. The events can go on until the early hours of the morning, but are fairly casual, and after midnight, people leave as they please.

What is the etiquette on saying goodbye?

Around midnight, when my boyfriend and I usually decide it's time to go, most people will still be there. He insists we should say goodbye to everyone. He will walk around the room hugging everyone goodbye. I will say goodbye to the few people we were speaking to directly, and of course thank the host. There are always some people at the event who I didn't even speak to that night.

What do you make of this?

GENTLE READER: That your boyfriend's goodbyes must be as long and drawn-out as the parties themselves. Miss Manners now has a vivid image in her head of a strange man, with whom she has never spoken, suddenly giving her a hug goodbye.

Your approach is not rude — and is infinitely less jarring.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was at a favorite restaurant where Southern fare is served family-style. Although I was dining alone, all of the food was served in large dishes, with portions for at least two people. Fried chicken, pot roast and several mouth-watering sides were presented.

Although I tried to sample each dish, there was far too much food to eat in one sitting. I assumed I would be able to take the leftovers with me, and envisioned a delicious next-day lunch.

When the meal came to an end, however, the waitress whisked the extra food away and wished me a good night. No "doggy bag" was offered. I paid the bill and left.

I must admit I was a bit perplexed by my experience. The meal was not inexpensive, and I cannot believe that the food served to me was to be reheated and served again. Who was in the wrong here — myself for expecting to take the food I had paid for, or the restaurant for removing it?

GENTLE READER: Did you ask? Servers can be observant and intuitive, but mind-readers they are not. As your meal was being whisked away, Miss Manners assures you that you could have politely stopped her with, "Oh, I was hoping to take that home. Do you have some sort of container that I could fit it all in?"

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband has been diagnosed with a devastating illness and a worse prognosis. Our friends are stepping up and being a big help. Should I send a thank-you note for every meal and thing they send and bring? Or can I wait until our suffering is over?

GENTLE READER: As much as you are able, Miss Manner recommends that you do it now.

Good people should hear that their kindness, which you may be drawing on in the sad future, is welcome and appreciated. And unfortunately, you will likely be dealing with condolence letters to respond to after the fact.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.