Q: I know that one is not supposed to point out lapses in polite behavior to others. But how can one hope to change questionable behavior in others without breaking this rule?
My significant other and I often go to happy hours instead of dining more formally. This practice takes us to bars. When we approach the bar, my partner seats himself comfortably and waits for me to squeeze in beside him, regardless of the number of occupied stools.
Is he breaking any rules? I feel that he is, but I do not point this out to him due to rule one, not pointing out lapses in others. Can you help me?
A: It’s called “Honey, would you mind …?”
It is true that Miss Manners is rules-crazy, because she doesn’t want people making up their own etiquette, which, oddly enough, always turns out to favor them at the expense of others. As you know, she wants that particular rule obeyed.
But if your Other is as Significant as you say, surely he would want to please you. And if couples were not allowed an occasional plea of “Honey, I know you don’t mean it, but there’s something that drives me crazy,” the divorce rate would be approximately 100 percent.
Notice that this phrasing does not tax the other person with the rudeness of breaking a rule. It merely states a personal request. If you do this as you are headed to the bar — “This time, would you mind letting me get seated first? It’s awkward trying to slip in beside you” — you should be able to accomplish your objective even more gently.
Q: I know someone who is in the late stages of a terminal illness. This person received one of those colorful, lovely animated email greeting cards from a close family member. The e-card wished the “Best New Year for 2017.”
The recipient was shocked that someone would send such a thing. Even if it was a result of a thoughtless failure to edit a mass mailing list, it seems a horrible breach of manners. The recipient was very hurt and said so.
A: In this situation, there is no time left for such misunderstandings, Miss Manners would think. Perhaps the card sender thought of this as wishing for the best possible year under the circumstances.
But no matter. Please tell that person about the patient’s reaction, which you might gently characterize as a misinterpretation, so that amends can be made.
Q: Is it acceptable to wear a white tie and waistcoat with a conventional tuxedo? Or must they only be worn with a tailcoat?
A: A fundamental misunderstanding about gentlemen’s evening clothes, for which Miss Manners blames movie stars, is that they should display the creativity of the wearer.
Wrong. That’s for ladies. Gentlemen should rather be noted for their correctness and tailoring. And the correct tie and optional waistcoat that go with the tuxedo are black, which is why it is properly called “black tie”; while for “white tie,” which features the tailcoat, the tie and waistcoat are white.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.