Q: I hope you will be able to set my mind at ease regarding the proper form of greeting for a former lover for whom the flame still burns, albeit with the softer glow of nostalgia.
My meeting with this person, whom I did in fact know in the biblical sense, was an occasion I'd arranged myself. That is, 12 years after, I met Richard's father, asked him how Richard was and called Richard--I believe just to say hello. He asked me to lunch, and I went.
The key fact is that I am now happily married and have no wish to "start something" with someone else. Of course, I'm having fun deceiving myself with my fantasies, but I really would like to keep Richard as a friend, and he seems to want the same.
Here is the problem: When I entered the restaurant, I spotted Richard right away, and suddenly I was face to face with this great hunk of manhood I hadn't seen for 12 years. (My husband is a hunk, too. I paid my wimp-dating dues, and feel grateful for the happy marriage that I have.)
Back to Richard. I hesitated for a moment, very concerned that I not appear provocative or sexually available in any way. I had just about decided to shake hands with him, when Richard bent to kiss me (social kiss, public-restaurant-at-noon variety). And do you know what I did, Miss Manners? I gave him my cheek.
I hadn't planned it. I loathe fake Hollywood kissing. My evasion didn't interfere with our lunch any; we talked for three hours and then placidly said goodbye. I kissed him goodbye. Our goodbyes were quite firm, although he didn't turn his cheek.
Should I have accepted his greeting with the simple graciousness with which he intended it? I do not want a divorce and could not handle an affair. Have I answered my own question?
A: Actually, you haven't even asked a question. The kissing question having been satisfactorily settled at the time, you are merely seizing the opportunity to recount a titillating experience.
Miss Manners doesn't mind a bit. Under the circumstances, you had best regale her, rather than your husband. Reasonable husbands have no objections to their wives maintaining sentimental friendships so that there are no legitimate grounds of complaint when they do so themselves; but half-way alert husbands get nervous when a term such as "great hunk of manhood" is used, or there is undue emphasis on the choice of social greetings that would be considered conventional and harmless if unremarked.
Q: Having recently married a gentleman of rural New England family, I adopted his surname, retaining the first letter of my maiden name as a middle initial. I am from the South, and this has been the practice of my mother and all female relatives known to me.
My husband's family insists that the first letter of the childhood middle name is the proper middle initial of a married woman, whose maiden name is therefore only found in parentheses.
I daresay the form of name I chose will ultimately prevail, as the matter is not very important. But in your opinion, which usage is correct? It had never occurred to either party in the discussion that variation existed.
A: It rarely does. That is what makes a good family discussion.
Changing the surname, i.e., dropping it in favor of the husband's surname, which is used with both given names, is by Miss Manners' standards, the old-fashioned way, although the other has been in use for more than a generation. Do as you wish, of course--even Miss Manners has a great deal of uncharacteristic tolerance when it comes to people deciding what they wish their names to be. These days, your in-laws should count themselves lucky that you took their surname in marriage--and their son, too, for that matter.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.
Copyright (c) 1983, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.