Q. Recently, I attended a black-tie dinner at the home of one of my associates--a young, single professional man. His houseman, whom I thought unusually attractive, made it clear to me that I attracted him.
I was flattered, and, in control of the situation, I told him I had never had an encounter like this before. When he half-whispered, "Perfect!," I had a hard time enjoying my cognac and conversation with the rest of the guests at dinner.
Since my wife was not alerted to all this, and I would like to meet this man and explain my married state to him, would I call him and plan a date, or just send an informal note by mail?
A. You know, of course, that it is immoral and indecent to attempt to steal a servant from someone whose hospitality you have enjoyed. Fortunately, you only want this man's social services, and the rules about that are a great deal more lax.
Miss Manners would nevertheless advise discretion. You do not want to give the appearances of evil by calling attention to your overtures, which might be mistaken by your host for business advances. She suggests that you write him if he receives mail privately at his own quarters, or call him when you know that your associate is not home.
And please forgive Miss Manners for musing on how much more interesting this etiquette question would have been had the houseman made his advances to someone who was not susceptible to his charms.
Q. I often spend the weekends at my aunt's house. Whenever they sit down at the dinner table, they pray before they eat.
I do not pray before meals, and constantly find myself uncomfortable before them. I always feel out of place, as if I was doing something wrong by not bowing my head. How should I approach this situation when it arises again?
A. With head bowed. As is sometimes the case, you felt wrong because you were wrong.
Bowing the head does not constitute praying, nor even endorsement of the prayers of others. It is simply a sign of respect for the religious activity being practiced in your presence. It is equivalent to standing at attention in silence while the national anthem of a country not your own is being played.
Etiquette does not regulate whether you use the time for sacred or profane thoughts--only that you keep respectfully still and refrain from getting a head start on the food.
Q. While at a nice restaurant we enjoy frequently, my wife and I spotted a cockroach ambling up the wall. I suggested informing the management, thinking they had best know the fact. My wife, though, thought the management might view this as criticism, rather than helpfulness, thus reducing future dining pleasure. We decided not to take any action until hearing from you.
A. Do you suppose that the restaurant would rather you spared it the embarrassment of confrontation and reported your findings to the health department instead?
Miss Manners assumes, on the contrary, that any decent establishment would welcome being informed of such problems, in order to be able to correct them immediately. If not, she would rather avoid the establishment altogether. But, then, she is not so tolerant as you, who talk of "future dining pleasure" at a place where you are considering allowing cockroaches to pass unremarked and assuming retaliation for criticism.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.