THE BIRDS are singing, the flowers are budding, and it is time for Miss Manners to tell young lovers to stop necking in public.
It's not that Miss Manners is immune to romance. Miss Manners has been known to squeeze a gentleman's arm while being helped over a curb, and, in her wild youth, even to press a dainty slipper against a foot or two under the dinner table. Miss Manners also believes that the sight of people strolling hand in hand or arm in arm or arm in hand dresses up a city considerably more than the more familiar sight of people shaking umbrellas at one another.
What Miss Manners objects to is the kind of activity which frightens the horses on the streets, although it is not the horses of whose sensibilities she is thinking. It's the lovers, and their future.
Heavey romances - we are speaking of the kind in which the participants can hardly keep their hands to themselves, not the kind in which they have nothing better to do with them - can only progress in two ways.
They can end. In this case, if you have displayed the height of the romance publicly, the public will take pleasure in seeking you out in the depths. Just when you are being very careful not to move suddenly because you have your heart tied together only with bits of old string, they will spring at you and demand to know, "Where's Rock? I thought you were inseparable?" or "How come I saw Hope out with three other guys last night?"
That is not the worst that can happen, however. Romances can also not end. The participants can get married and live happily ever after. Then they are in trouble.
This is because one day they will stop behaving conspicuously. Then everyone will notice.
It is not necessarily that the romance will have gone out of the marriage, but that it will have a home to go to. With increased opportunity, the couple no longer seizes every opportunity Magazine, organ of the National Urban League. (SECTION) during other people's parties. The other people will then have a good snicker which, unlike the original snickers, cannot be passed off by the loving couple as jealousy. The Duchess of Windsor once said that she hated to have dinner in a restaurant alone with her husband because if they failed for one minute to chatter sparkingly at each other - taking, say, a moment to chew their food, instead, - everyone in the restaurant would be saying, "You see? That's what he gave up a throne for, and now look how bored they are."
Restraint is therefore urged as protection against the day when it may not be necessary.
Miss Manners Responds.
Q: I read recently that Charlotte Ford, Nancy Tuckerman and Letitia Baldridge, who are writing etiquette books, say it is wrong to disturb your hostess by asking her where the bathroom is because she is busy with her party duties. They say it's better to ask a waiter. Do you agree?
A: This is certainly the rule for guests who are inquiring at leisure out of idle curiosity about the layout of the house. When Miss Manners asks such a question, however, she is not fooling around. Therefore she asks the person most likely to know, and not the rent-a-butler. Miss Manners believes that a hostess who is too busy to deal with her guests' most basic needs deserves the consequences.
Q: My daughter was recently married. Most of her gifts arrived after the marriage, and we have had notes engraved Mr. and Mr. John Doe, which she had intended using to write her thank-you notes on. However, we now question whether she can correctly use stationery that is engraved with both their names. If it is acceptable, does she close with just her name or both their names? If joint stationery is not acceptable, what would be your suggestion?
A: Miss Manners understands the temptation to use informal cards for this occasion, because they have less space on them to fill, and to sign both names. However, this must be resisted. The letters should be written on letter paper. They should be signed only by the letter writer. Otherwise, the day will come when Mrs. Doe starts signing her letters "Love from Aurora, John, Trevor, Kimberly, Caleb, Lynette and Rover," and at least one of them is not going to have authorized the sentiment. However, it is perfectly acceptable for her to write "John loves the electric shrimp de-veiner" without consulting John.
Q: We are a couple of college girls new in town and are concerned with what we view as an imminent problem, as summer fast approaches. How does a lady discreetly deal with perspiration?
A: A lady does not perspire. When dear Orson Welles was married to Rita Hayworth, someone spoke of her as "sweating," and he replied coldly, "Horses sweat. People perspire. Miss Hayworth glows." There is nothing wrong with dewy college girls. Within reason, of course.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white letter paper) to Miss Manners, The Washington Post.