SELF-IMPROVEMENT is bad enough, Miss Manners, who hardly can be improved upon, no longer can find paperback books that interest her at airport newstands. They all seem to be written for people who have a long way to go.
What's worse is what new, improved people are doing to simple social intercourse. They are attempting to improve others. This had better stop before there are no good people left.
Miss Manners has been accosted by a variety of people who do missionary work under the pretense of friendship, generously spreading their newly acquired insights in the hope of making other people as attractive as themselves.
People have offered to teach Miss Manners how to deal with her guilt. Well, Miss Manners doesn't have any guilt. People have offered to teach Miss Manners to be free of her inhibitions. Miss Manners does have a few inhibitions, as it happens, but she needs them and, if anything, is hoping to develop a few more. People have offered to help Miss Manners find God, but Miss Manners hadn't known God was lost.
With all this unsolicited advice, Miss Manners is beginning to feel like the little old lady being helped across a street she did not wish to cross. It is in extremely bad taste to help people who are not in need.
Unless, of course, you can recommend to them a good electrician or an honest plumber.
Miss Manners has received a number of suggestions on what unmarried couples should call each other, the word "honey" being the exclusive property of the legally married.
Only one of the suggestions, "consort," is quite as good as Miss Manners' own suggestion, "partner." For example, "comate" is good, legitimate word meaning companion, but Miss Manners looked it up and found that is also means hairy. This confuses an already confusing situation.
Other suggestions were mostly sentimental, and therefore inappropriate to everyday life, where the sentiments tend to vary. One gentleman made a strong case for "my fondest friend," but when Miss Manners tried this out on a lady who didn't like "partner," that lady thought for a while and finally said, "But I can think of people I'm fonder of." MISS MANNERS RESPONDS
Q: I was introduced to a Dr. So and So at a party, and was embarrassed to have him say, after I had discussed at length an interesting disease in my family, that he didn't know anything about medicine. I supposed he was a doctor of philosophy, but should he then call himself a doctor?
A: Only people of the medical profession may correctly use the title "doctor" socially. A really fastidious doctor of philosophy will not use it professionally, either, and schools and scholarly institutions where it is assumed that everyone has an advanced degree use "Mr.," "Mrs.," "Miss" or "Ms." What you have there is either an honest medical practioner, or an ignorant Ph.D.
Q: Must personal letters be written by hand? I type my letters because my handwritting is so bad people won't understand them othewise.
A: Yes, but you then expose your bad spelling, don't you? Miss Manners is appalled that penmanship is no longer taught in the schools, and advises you to go immdiately to a remedial writing class. In the meantime, type the letters in which you wish to convey information, such as the ones in which you threaten to sue appliance stores, and hand write your letters to friends telling them how depressed you are or thanking them for the egg poachers or sympathizing with them because their rich aunts died. In those cases, the fact of writing is more important than the information.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white letter paper) to Miss Manners, Style Section, The Washington Post.