Q.One of the most frequently heard phrases now is "Let's have lunch sometime," but what this phrase often means is "I actually have no intention whatsoever of having lunch with you."
When I was gullible, I thought people meant what they said, and I would respond by suggesting a date and place for lunch. Then my troubles began. I found out, painfully, that the seemingly simple procedure of arranging lunch can be an extraordinarily difficult and humiliating experience.
I hereby suggest a "lunch-scheduling etiquette." Those who violate it do so at their peril. The principles apply to the average professional who has the time and money, with no ulterior business or personal motives.
The first is that once you've got past the "Let's have lunch" stage, you should arrange for a date reasonably soon. I've had friends tell me, "Call me in three months -- I'm actually crashing on some work right now." That's rude. No job is that busy. I'm not talking about lunch every day -- just one day.
Second, if you must cancel a lunch, reschedule it. That seems like the most elementary form of politeness, but on several occasions I've had friends call an hour before lunch to cancel, saying they were too busy at work and promising to call back to reschedule later -- and never doing so.
A third principle: Make every effort to attend a rescheduled lunch. I once had someone reschedule five or six times in two months. No one is that busy.
A fourth principle is to be willing to go over to the other person's place for lunch. I have friends who frequently invite me over for lunch, but when I suggest lunch at my place of work, they are reluctant.
I can't think of a more unnecessary insult than to break a lunch commitment. I remember such insults; I can't help it. For example, recently I was asked to provide a reference for the person who rescheduled five or six times, and I told the questioner, quite honestly, I believe, that this person was undependable and seemed to have little political sense.
So the next time you encounter someone in the hallway and find yourself saying, "Let's have lunch," do it. That someone might be me.
A. Who is that person who put business obligations ahead of a social lunch in the middle of the workday? That is the kind of employe Miss Manners would like to have. Had you made this whole eloquent case on behalf of dinner, Miss Manners would have been the first to endorse it. People who treat off-duty social obligations cavalierly are rude.
But lunchtime occurs during the working day. It is lovely to have a social break if one can, and to take the time to run across town to see a friend. It is also a wonderful time to see people whose spouses one can't stand.
But one fits that in around one's professional obligations.
The one rule Miss Manners suggests is that those who cannot expect to have guaranteed free time during the day -- and although you don't believe it, a great many jobs do require the flexibility of tossing in one's lunch hour -- should not make social appointments without the warning that they might have to be canceled.
Q. Our college holds waltz parties every three weeks, and I usually wear a cream-colored lace ball gown -- I'm not sure from what era, as it was in a trunk of old clothes my mother was given. Also in the trunk was a pair of 18-button gloves (I now know what they're called from reading your column) but they don't seem to match the dress in either color or material. Were gloves of a more delicate material worn in such situations, or would it be better for me to do without gloves altogether?
A. Oh, wear the gloves. Miss Manners knows that it is a nuisance to get into them, and an even bigger nuisance to get out of them in order to take something to eat or drink, but they are so charming. Evening gloves should be kidskin or doeskin, white or off-white. Yours are probably pretty far off white by now, but they need not match the dress exactly.
Mesh and colored fabrics were worn, too, but only by stripteasers. And by the way, there was a profession that understood the charm of long gloves.