Q.I am a woman bank vice president, age 35. There is no man in my life at present, nor am I particularly anxious to find one.

This is not a problem in my social circle, as I am quite comfortable attending parties, the theater, outdoor activities, etc., with groups of friends, married couples or single women friends.

However, my work involves a lot of formal entertaining and socializing, including luncheons, dinners, theater parties, company Christmas parties, ball games and picnics. My problem concerns those events to which spouses are invited.

Keeping in mind that I am quite capable of enjoying myself without a partner and that the problem is strictly one of etiquette, please explain which of the above events requires an escort and which may be attended as a single member of a group, possibly escorted by a married couple.

Does the size of the group, location (private home or restaurant) or time of day make a difference? When I receive an invitation to a company party, how may I determine whether an escort is required, and, if so, how do I gracefully decline the invitation?

Please don't dismiss this problem lightly, as single, sociable men are hard to find and when found are rarely willing to attend more than one of these sometimes boring gatherings. A.A. Dismiss this lightly? Why, you A. have hit on two of Miss Manners' favorite examples of what is wrong with modern business and social life.

The first (which she notes gratefully that you have been too clever to endure) is the idea that people must go about their social lives in tandem. Refusing to go out without a "date" of some sort has deprived many people of pleasures ranging from attending the theater to being free to flirt with someone new, and alienated countless hosts who hate being asked to entertain the unknown guests of guests.

The second, on which you seem to be vacillating, is the even sillier notion that one should bring innocent people to one's business functions, even when these functions are misleadingly designed and labeled to pass for fun. Miss Manners is surprised that so many spouses sit still for these events, which are bound to bore anyone not on the office staff, and a great many who are, and would certainly not subject to them anyone whose company she was planning to save for better things.