Q. Some of the men in my office are feeling incorrect after I challenged their assertions that women may not properly use the title, "Esquire." They have even expressed some willingness to part with a portion of their hard-earned salaries in their insistence that "esquire" is incorrect for women. I am eager to assist them in their divestment of funds, so I decided to write you, the ultimate authority, to find out what is correct. (The men have decided to accept your decision, although some of them feel you are not completely serious.)
We are familiar with the medieval origins and usage of the title in England, but this differs from American usage, does it not? As I have always understood it, the title in the United States carries none of the significance of the English usage (i.e., a title for anyone with the social position of a gentleman), but is instead used mainly by persons in certain professions. I have certainly seen it used by women, although for the life of me, I can't figure out why any woman would want to encumber her name with this particular anachronistic and pompous borrowing from her male counterparts.
A. Miss Manners agrees with you that the use of "esquire" among male lawyers in this country is anachronistic and ponpous, but she will explain to you why female lawyers similarly encumber themselves.
It is because it is a not-uncommon experience for women who are recognized as the ultimate authorities in their fields, and on whose weighty decisions the disburssement of hard-earned salaries may hinge, to be nevertheless taxed with being "not completely serious."
Q. What are the responsibilities of a young man on the debutante circuit? If any.
The first is to wipe that smirk off your face. The others are to answer all invitations immediately and correctly, to show up properly dressed when expected, to greet the hosts, to dance with the debutantes, to avoid characterizing the relative merits of the debutantes within earshot, and to refrain from being sick on the premises.
Q. Our daughter has recently become engaged, and the young man's parents have given them a set of table linens as an engagement present. Is it necessary for us to give them an engagement present, too? We plan to present them with something nice as a wedding gift, but you know how easily engagements are broken. For instance, who would keep the linens if the the wedding never comes off? Would it be better for us to give her a shower, with a smaller, shower-type gift?
A. Nothing is certain in this world, least of all anything having to do with romance, and Miss Manners understands your caution. (One of these days, she is going to announce a new rule that couples must return all presents unless the marriage lasts a minimum of six months.)
Engagement presents are already safe, because they must be returned to the givers if the wedding does not take place. You cannot give your own daughter, or anyone related to you, a shower. There is nothing to stop you from giving her an egg beater, or whatever you consider to be a shower-type present, but perhaps you will feel more generous now that Miss Manners has promised you that you will get it back.