DEAR MISS MANNERS: People pressed for time in the morning do all manner of things in their cars on the way to work: They eat breakfast, pluck their eyebrows, floss and apply makeup. While visible to their fellow commuters, they seem to think themselves in an isolation field.
I, on the other hand, walk to work, and not unlike the commuters above, I like to make productive use of the 15 minutes by shaving with an electric razor as I go. My wife tells me this is totally socially unacceptable. It seems, oddly, to be an issue one does not find addressed in etiquette references. What’s the buzz?
GENTLE READER: Other than the one coming from your electric razor? (Miss Manners feels sure that you intended to set her up for this punch line and is ashamed of herself for taking the bait. She is further under the impression that you are being cheeky with the question but will nevertheless attempt to take it seriously.)
Although dangerous, sometimes unlawful and always unsavory, grooming in a moving vehicle is not necessarily a breach of etiquette. There is an illusion of privacy when one is behind closed doors, even if there are glass windows that shatter it. After all, inadvisable as it may be, people do personal things in their homes behind open shades all the time.
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Walking down the street, however, is completely public, and shaving is therefore not permitted there. Further, having been in the path of many a pedestrian distracted by a cellular device, Miss Manners shudders at the consequences of being in that of an oncoming shaver.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am throwing a camping party for up to 18 of my close friends (all between 20-30 years old) packed into three campsites. When a friend who has a 2-year-old accepted my invitation, I told her I’d be happy to get an additional campsite for her family, as the larger rowdy group wouldn’t be very kid-friendly. I anticipate a lot of late nights and sleeping in until way past sunrise.
She got so mad at me she’s not even coming anymore!
I really thought I was trying my best to accommodate a baby at an event that is certainly not kid-friendly. Was there another way I should have handled it? Or is it OK to hold my ground and not force my other friends to share a site with only three or four tents, packed in with a cranky toddler?
GENTLE READER: Are you absolutely certain that your friend intended to bring the presumably cranky toddler? Or was her acceptance of your invitation immediately met with your offer to banish her to another campsite, away from all social activity?
Even if it was clear that the whole family planned to attend, Miss Manners suspects that it was the implication that no one would want to be within three camps of her that offended your friend.
Perhaps two years of dirty looks and assumptions of noise and bad behavior as she has attempted to go about her life with the socially inconvenient addition of a toddler triggered her reaction. You could have discussed the problem from the angle of not wanting a boisterous crowd to upset an innocent child who would not be able to get much sleep.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Now that same-sex marriage has been declared legal in my state, my son and his fiance are planning their wedding. They have chosen black and white as their colors. Is it appropriate to request that their guests also dress in black and white?
GENTLE READER: It has always been appropriate for gentlemen, whether bridegrooms or guests, to wear black and white at a wedding. Miss Manners reminds you, however, that it has never been appropriate to attempt dictating color schemes to the ladies.
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.
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