THE YOUNG LADIES were plotting revenge. Perhaps one of them might coax the office colleague to repeat his suggestive remarks to her when, unbeknownst to him, their superiors were listening. Or one of them might agree to the assignation he suggested, only to show up at the hotel room with all their office mates. That should cure him, or others in the office who seemed to believe that female workers were designed for their amusement.
Miss Manners, to whom the young ladies came for final approval, was tempted to let them go ahead. Miss Manners has too much to do, what with setting out the tea things and all, to save gentlemen, or perhaps she should simply say men, from the natural consequences of their bad behavior. People who make obscene remarks should be prepared to be struck back at, one way or another.
But Miss Manners began to feel an unnatural twinge of sympathy for those gentlemen who, caught in changing times, may not realize that what they consider gallantry is considered obscenity by young ladies today.
Mind you, Miss Manners is entirely on the side of the young ladies. Overt sexuality, when there is no reason to suppose it is welcome, is not gallantry. People who do not have a well-developed sense of when flirtation is welcome and when not, should not play that subtle game. In any case, talk of hotel rooms is not flirtation.
Nor is it proper to assume that young ladies always welcome favorable appraisals of their bodies. "We are not here to please the men in the office," declared the angry young ladies.
"We're workers, too, not decorations, let alone sex objects." But it is true that it was once the custom for such remarks - mild ones, such as telling young ladies that they looked pretty or had lovely eyes - to be made even in the most impersonal situations.
Elderly gentlemen brought up in this atmosphere sometimes assume that the greater freedom women have today means that they can not only make such remarks, but that they can make even freer remarks. They are incorrect. they are going to get socked in the eye one day, and the next time Miss Manners is not going to help them.
Miss Manners Responds
Q: Quite often, my mother is involved in club meetings, church functions, etc. After the business is completed, the ladies adjourn to a separate room for lunch, cake, coffee or whatever. Everyone seems to like taking a seat closest to the entrance, causing most of the ladies to squeeze through cramped space, around girdles, and over toes to get to a place at the table. Other than knocking yourself out to be the first into the room, can you give us a solution? Rearranging the furniture is also out.
A: One rearranges the ladies, girdles and all, with some tactful comment. If "I wonder if you would join us over there?" doesn't work, you might try, "Who is that lady way over there in the corner in that shocking dress?"
Q: When I have soft drinks at the movies, I often have to get up about half way through the picture and excuse myself. The people in my row seem annoyed when I go past them, first in leaving and then in returning. I only block their view for a minute. Is this inconsiderate of me, really?
A: Perhaps. But, then, so is the alternative.
Q: While on a recent visit to New York, a friend and I were dining in a quaint, out-of-the way restaurant. Before we had a cance to finish our coffee and cognac, we became embroiled in a nasty, tasteless robbery. I won't bore you with the details. In the confusion that followed, the management failed to present us with our bill. Do we still have an obligation to pay?
A: To many non-New Yorkers, including your Miss Manners, it is difficult to distinguish between robbery and the customary prices legitimately charged in New York restaurants. If the robbery was, indeed, tasteless, you very likely were gypped; however, this does not excuse your performing such a service to the restaurant.