Q. I attended the Democratic convention four years ago as a guest. There was often an incredible amount of pushing and shoving. I noticed that most of it was done by the reporters -- especially the TV reporters. Don't they teach manners in journalism school?
A. Waddeya mean? Out of Miss Manners' way, you.
Actually, as the only known surviving mannerly journalist, Miss Manners feels called upon to explain journalistic manners. You seem to have noticed that there aren't any. But there is a rationale behind this which may help you to understand, if not condone, being hit in the skull with a hand-held camera.
Journalism is a sacred trust on behalf of The People and their right to know. Surely you have noticed this while reading People magazine.
Therefore, each journalist who shoves you thinks of him or herself as representing the millions of people who will be reading or watching whatever that person is able to gather. When millions of people are trying to get where you are trying to go, naturally you are apt to get somewhat trampled.
Q. The last time I participated in the Democratic convention in New York, I enjoyed everything about the convention and the city, except being stared and whistled at by construction workers. I am not a prude, and any appreciative response to my physical charms ordinarily pleases me. But this is something else. I can't very well travel blocks and blocks out of my way to avoid such situations, nor do I wish to take to the veil, or take cabs. Within the bounds of propriety, then, what can I reply to a burly stranger who approaches me and announces, "Beautiful!" or "Very nice!" Even better, what, other than sprinting, can I do to dissuade him from approaching me at all?
A. What, pray, did you contemplate saying that would convince these gentlemen of the construction business that you are an unapproachable lady? Miss Manners shudders to think.
The idea you wish to convey is -- is it not? -- that no social intercourse, much less the personal remark of which the appraisal of one's body is an extreme form, is appropriate. Such arts as the frigid walk, the cut, and the shattering snub are, Miss Manners fears, lost in this age, when so many people repeat the silly and naive statement that etiquette is "just a matter of making others feel comfortable."
These techniques from the past, designed to make the undeserving feel uncomfortable, must be re-developed, while another antique notion, that it is a compliment for a woman's looks to be noted before one has gotten to know her sweet character, must be dropped. Learn to walk with your nose in the air, without falling off the curb.
Q. I am having friends over for dinner during the airtime of the convention. Would it be rude to watch it on television during dinner, or should I plan to serve dessert in front of the TV?
A. While it is sometimes expedient to require one's guests to eat from plates balanced on their laps (the semi-barbarous custom known as the buffet dinner), expecting them to do so in the dark shows a lack of consideration for both your guests and your rug. Miss Manners suggests confining this practice to dessert, and confining dessert to a food that is as tasty when picked up off the floor as it is from a plate. Apples, rather than zabaglione, for example.