Q: I plan to ask my boyfriend to marry me soon. Please tell me, does this fit into your rules of etiquette? Am I being too pushy? We have known each other for the past three years, and I feel it's about time we start talking seriously. We are both in our twenties and have full-time jobs. How do you feel about this?
A: Miss Manners accepts it entirely and hopes that the gentleman will do the same.
Contrary to popular belief, passed down through the obfuscations of mothers and grandmothers, ladies have always initiated marriage proposals or had others do so on their behalf. Traditionally, a lady would say, "My father says that people are beginning to talk about us, and we shouldn't see each other any more." Miss Manners' favorite example of a parent's doing this is in "War and Peace," when Prince Vasily, impatient because Pierre says nothing when left alone with the prince's daughter, bursts in on them, simply announcing "My wife just told me everything" and begins embracing and congratulating the young man.
Miss Manners only hopes that ladies who perform the service for themselves these days will observe the proprieties of proposals that gentlemen have long been expected to follow.
The proper form for a proposal of marriage is not, "It's about time we started talking seriously." It is not, "Why aren't you willing to make a permanent commitment?" It is not, "I don't care, but it would mean a lot to my parents if we got married, and I just want them to stop hassling me." It is not, "My biological clock is ticking away." It is not, "Aren't you ever going to be ready to take responsibility?"
The proper form for a proposal of marriage is, "I love you so madly, I can't live without you. Will you marry me?"
Miss Manners would not go so far as to say that this works every time. But at least it does not inspire the response of "Will you quit crowding me?"
Q: Is it proper to ask, and is there a tactful way of asking, friends not to bring their children along when they are invited to your house?
It's not that we hate children. It's just that 1) We don't have children ourselves and there isn't anything for them to do at our house to keep them entertained, and 2) if children are present, they seem to end up at the center of conversation when we are interested in more adult conversation. In the event we all go on a picnic or to the beach, of course the children are welcome. I just know, and have seen, so many parents who feel their children are an unquestioned permanent appendage to their own bodies, like their arms and legs.
A: There is something wrong with your simile. Nobody ever tried and failed to get a baby sitter to sit with his arms or legs so that he could go out dancing without them.
Parents should not, of course, include their uninvited children automatically. Miss Manners would go so far as to say that it is only for daytime, weekend or vacation parties that they should inquire, "Does this include children?" to which a perfectly proper answer may be, "No, I'm afraid this is an adult party."
If you confine your invitations to evening parties, and the parents still are likely to bring their children, you may be forgiven for specifying when you invite them that yours is a "grown-up" party. Miss Manners only asks that you not attribute refusals you may get entirely to an excess of parental devotion.