DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was addressing an informal talk to a mixed-gender group of seniors. Later, one of the ladies pulled me aside and gently explained that women of her generation did not care to be addressed as “guys,” even in a group (as in, “You guys may be familiar with …”).
That is the only time I have heard any hint that this was a widely held preference. Was this lady overly sensitive, or should I be mindful to avoid the term when referring to a mixed-gender group?
GENTLE READER: Did you miss the entire era when names of occupations were changed (“firemen” to “firefighters,” “stewardess” to “flight attendant”) to reflect the reality of including both genders?
Apparently a great many people did, because it was later that the slangy term “you guys” began to be used, not only for mixed groups, but for groups that were entirely female.
Members of your audience did not. They may have been personally involved in the struggle to convince people of what nonsense it was to believe that ladies should assume they are automatically included in a strictly masculine term. Presumably ladies never considered the word “Gentlemen” on a door to be an invitation to enter.
Miss Manners thoroughly agrees with your audience that “you guys” is offensive. “Ladies and gentlemen” is the proper way to address any mixed audience.
Mourning without bling
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had some deaths in the family, and it occurred to me that while I know something about how to dress when in mourning, I don’t know what jewelry is appropriate.
I’ve read about onyx or jet jewelry, and I’m guessing that the rule about pearls being generally acceptable is still followed. I wore pearls (necklace, earrings and bracelet) to my grandmother’s funeral and a pair of simple pearl stud earrings to the (much sadder) funeral of my infant nephew.
In some cases it hardly seems appropriate to wear any jewelry, but since I don’t wear makeup, putting in a pair of earrings is sort of my “dressed to leave the house” thing, and I would feel a bit odd without them. However, if I am informed that no jewelry is appropriate, I will abide by Miss Manners’ dictates.
GENTLE READER: Showing respect symbolically by dressing somberly for a funeral is so rare these days that the general rule about not appearing flashy is barely remembered. And the specifics of mourning jewelry are known chiefly to collectors of Victoriana.
In periods that prescribed elaborate mourning, some jewelry was permitted, but there were complicated formulas that depended on the relationship to the deceased and the amount of time that had passed since the death. Nowadays, pearls, jet or onyx would be the correct jewelry to wear at a funeral.
Don’t presume to share leftovers
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister always brings her own containers to functions where food is served so she can take home leftovers and not have to worry about being responsible for borrowed ones from the host.
I find this tacky, almost like she expects people to always give her a “doggy bag.” What are your thoughts on people bringing their own containers for leftovers to gatherings?
GENTLE READER: About the same as if they brought begging bowls.
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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