INSTANCES OF rowdy behavior in one of our city's popular public gathering places are multiplying. People simply must learn to behave themselves if we are to continue to assemble there peaceably. Habitues will, of course, recognize that the place in question is the Opera House of the Kennedy Center.

A gentleman of Miss Manners' acquaintance was recently assaulted on the head there by an elderly party wielding a rolled-up program. This vicious attack was explained by the perpetrator as punishment for the gentleman's having stood during a standing ovation, thus blocking his attacker's view of the curtain calls.

The same gentleman was once chastised by a person holding a season ticket next to his because his "clap has too sharp a sting."

Another gentleman and a lady of Miss Manners' vast acqaintance got into a nasty tangle during "The Magic Flute" with a chronic whisperer who later attempted to justify her behavior by explaining that she was narrating the stage events to a blind musicologist. Whether the musicologist's enjoyment of the event was enhanced by being told that a man dressed in green feathers and a birdcage had just walked on stage in an open question, but the enjoyment of the people nearby was not.

Miss Manners herself was once glared at, if you can believe it, for laughing at comic lines and business during "The Barber of Seville."

So it is time for us to agree on the rules. Miss Manners is prepared to issue them:

There shall be no talking, eating, rustling of papers or prolonged coughing during an opera. Those who feel obliged to perform any such action must leave the auditorium.

However, one is permitted to enjoy the opera, particularly at those prices. Enthusiastic clapping and laughter at appropriate times is acceptable. At certain calls, standing ovations are permitted, as are booing or shouting "Bravo" provided one use the correct endings and does not shout "Bravo!" when one means "Brave" or "Brave!" or "Brav!"

There shall also be separate regulations for arriving and departing from the Opera House. People who arrive late should not attempt to sit until there is a break in the music. But it is perfectly all right for anyone to leave when the program has concluded, skipping encores and curtain calls; those who wish to stay must simply let them past.

Lat us all understand this. Miss Manners remembers when Wahsington had noopera house, and does not wish to see this one taken away because we didn't know how to use it properly.


Q: I have an Edwadian etiquette book in which children are adviced to leave some food on their plates "for Lady Manners." Is she any relation to you?

A: Yes, indeed, although Lady Diana Manners, the actress, later Lady Diana Duff Cooper, is not. In the recent surge of ethnic pride in this country, Miss Manners toyed with the idea of using the family title from the old country, but decided it was inappropriate for an American. Incidentally, no one from the Manners family advises toying with food these days.

Q: As a businessman, how do I allow a businesswoman to pay for my lunch?

A: With credit card or cash, just as she prefers.