Miss Manners: Show what you’ve got — but selectively

October 16, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What are the rules for showing cleavage?

GENTLE READER: We have to draw the line somewhere, don’t we? And by “where,” Miss Manners is referring to geographical places, as well as anatomical ones.

That means at the office, no cleavage; on the nude beach, whatever you’ve got. Maybe even on the regular beach these days.

For evening, she holds to the Victorian standard. No, wait, it was a lot lower than you think.

But it was — ah, selective. Ball gowns were cut amazingly low, but they had sleeves. The idea was to show one thing at a time, although Miss Manners knows that there should be a better way to put that. Let her just say that cleavage should not be displayed when the dress is down-to-here in the back, or up-to-there anywhere in the skirt.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A grade school acquaintance sent me an e-mail requesting contact information for a member of my family. I am aware that the family member, who lives in the same region as the acquaintance, does not wish to associate with the acquaintance and, not unreasonably, fears being hounded by frequent unwelcome requests to share and reconnect.

Is it best to simply ignore the e-mail? What would be an appropriate and kind response?

GENTLE READER: Kinder than “He doesn’t want anything to do with you”?

But not as kind as, “Well, here’s his e-mail, his cellphone number, his Twitter account, and the password to his protected information on Facebook — and I happen to know that he’s home now”?

At some point, this person is going to realize that he is not getting the information he wants. But Miss Manners understands that you would prefer not to be the bouncer, and yet not to betray your relative.

You need only forward the e-mail and reply to the acquaintance that you have done so. There is no need to admit that you prefaced the forwarded message with, “I know you don’t want to see him, so I’m not giving him your address.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are planning our daughter’s wedding and finalizing the formal wedding invitation. She and her fiance have decided that the year of their church wedding ceremony should not be included on the invitation. They are not inclined to spell out the year, and have told us it is not required.

I have never received a wedding invitation without the year included and would like to know the proper etiquette guidelines.

GENTLE READER: It upsets the natural order of things when the children want to do things properly, and the parents have never been exposed to such propriety, but Miss Manners must tell you that your children are correct.

It seems odd that the year should suddenly be appearing on invitations — along with other incorrect new touches — because it would be ridiculous to invite people to an event a year away.

Another innovation, the save-the-date notice, takes care of the problem of people who plan so far ahead that they are able to use their frequent flier points. Miss Manners considers those useful, as long as everyone understands that they do not require a commitment, or even a response, from the guest, and yet do commit the host to issuing invitations when the time comes.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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