Q. A certain lumpish fellow of my acquaintance contends that it is not a breach of etiquette for a man to wear a cowboy hat indoors. He states that cowboy hats are unique in this regard. My mother was always a proponent of the Mrs. Paul W. Bryant Sr. school of thought on this subject. You may recall that when Bear Bryant was asked why he didn't wear his trademark hat in the Astrodome, he replied that it was because his mother taught him a gentleman doesn't wear a hat indoors.
A. Mrs. Bryant's rule certainly applies to cowboys who wish to behave as gentleman and, Miss Manners would like to add, to gentlemen who wish to disguise themselves as cowboys, a proliferating breed.
A genuine cowboy, wearing cowboy clothes and going about his cowboy business, does wear his hat everywhere. In other words, it is not the hat but the head that defines the man, oddly enough.
Q. Our son was recently married to a lovely young woman and they appear to be quite happy and well-suited to each other.
I realize the above paragraph says a great deal of importance and I should be pleased. I am -- except for the fact that our daughter-in-law never thanks us for a gift. This rankles. The thought and planning of any future gifts leaves me cold. How shall I handle this?
A. It is all very well to say that love is more important than thank-you letters, but your letter shows that you know in your heart that they are both important. It is Miss Manners' experience that an absence of thank-you letters, usually those due on wedding presents, is the singlemost cause of alienation of affection between brides and their in-laws.
Clear this up before it rankles you into some terrible breach. Address your complaint in a kindly way, either to your daughter-in-law or to your son. Do so on the next occasion for present giving.
"Agatha, dear, I never know what to get you," you say, patting her hand maternally. "I would so like to find something that pleases you, but you've never said a word about any of my presents and I'm so afraid you don't quite like them but are too polite to say so." (The son version goes "Nathaniel, dear, I'd so like to give dear Agatha something that would really please her, but. . . ."