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Single and Loathing It

So far so good, but they want the men to wear white tuxedos because it is August. I told them that since the affair was being held after 5 p.m. and it is being set up as a formal (semi-black tie) event, that white was not right to wear. I also said that the men would look like they were ready to pass out ice cream. Am I wrong?

Not about the hope of double scoops of chocolate whirl this will engender, if Miss Manners may judge by her own reaction. That white dinner jackets look silly, she agrees.

But they are not incorrect as summer evening clothes, so your objections about the hours and the degree of formality are incorrect. They do qualify as black tie. (Miss Manners has no idea what semi-black tie might be, but it sounds disheveled.)

Dear Miss Manners:

With all the sicknesses, swine flu, etc., going around, when my pastor asks us, at the beginning of church, to introduce ourselves to everyone sitting around us, everybody wants to shake your hand.

Since I'm on a lot of medicines that make me susceptible to many sicknesses, this makes me very concerned. How can I politely refuse to shake one's hand without offending them?

The only thing I could come up with is saying that I am sorry but I think that I am coming down with a cold. Needless to say, this is telling a lie, and saying this every week kind of defeats the purpose of going to church.

Not only that, but people would begin to wonder whether you never got over your cold because you were too dumb to come in from the rain.

People devote so much time and anguish providing excuses, true or false, when excuses are rarely necessary. What you need is an apology -- in this case, "I'm so sorry, I can't shake hands."

Or you could take the matter up with your preacher, asking him to substitute a less tactile gesture. Or just wear gloves.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2009 Judith Martin

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