Q. I am a young Scottish man who has recently become a naturalized U.S. citizen. In Scotland, I grew up wearing a kilt as normal, everyday clothing.
Occasionally, when I feel like it,I wear Scottish high clothing here (kilt, knee socks, kilt shoes and jacket, etc.). In Scotland, this is no big deal, because kilts on men are not considered costumes or uniforms but ordinary clothing.
Men who wear kilts elsewhere are quite used to rude inquiries from people who insist on knowing what is or is not worn beneath the kilt. Although this question bothers me, there are humorous answers for the questioning lady or man.
What bothers me more, since my arriving in the United States, are the insistent people who are not put off by my humorous retorts and begin to conduct their own personal inspection. These men and women grab my kilt and lift it up until their curiosity is satisfied.
I must risk being exposed in public, all for the sake of a laugh, unless I violently knock their hands away (providing I am not surprised from behind, in which case I can't do anything).
My question is how to politely and thoroughly make it known to these people (some of whom are friends and acquaintances) that I don't like it at all or, despite the appearance I have of laughing it off, find it the least bit funny.
I can't turn around and slap these people, as a woman would in the same circumstances, although sometimes I feel this might get my point across.
Why do they expect me to be any less embarrassed than a woman would be if she were to have her skirt pulled up in public?
A. Where is your sgian dubh?
Miss Manners does not ordinarily solve etiquette problems by recommending that the victims of rudeness arm themselves with dangerous weapons. Violence and the threat of violence are what etiquette is designed to prevent.
But this is no ordinary rudeness. Miss Manners agrees that attempting to lift a gentleman's kilt is the equivalent of pulling up a lady's skirt. The difference is that everyone here recognizes that the latter constitutes indecent assault, while there are, by your report, those who are so tasteless as to think that going after your clothing is a joke. You are quite right that the appropriate feminine response to such an attack, slapping and screaming, would merely add to this unfortunate hilarity.
Nor is the jeweled dagger worn at the calf an ordinary weapon. As it is part of the clothing, the sgian dubh can be worn unthreateningly, for the sake of tradition. But you can grab it at the first sign of any verbal or physical joke about your kilt and say menacingly, "Such insults are not taken lightly."
This puts you in charge of the "joke" and makes it about Scottish fierceness rather than about what they mistakenly perceive as feminine clothing.
Wearing the plaid only when appropriate here will help protect the rear flank from surprise attacks. But it is the sgian dubh that will turn this prank on your attackers and protect you from repeaters.
Q. What is the correct response to an announcement of a new home or a change of address?
My niece, who lives several thousand miles away, sent change-of-address cards announcing her new home to all cousins, aunts and uncles living in various parts of the USA. We rarely see or hear from this girl -- only once in five years or so.
My husband and I are retired and we send presents for marriages, births, etc., but we did not respond to this card, as she is unmarried.
Last Christmas, we put a note in our card telling her we hoped she liked her new home and inviting her, if she ever came this way, to let us know and visit us.
We got no response from her, and her mother has acted cold. I understand some other relatives did not send congratulations or presents either.
A. Let us hope that your niece's intention was to let her relatives know where she is living, because she presumes that they care to keep track of her even if only occasionally and she hopes that they will visit if they are in her area.
In that case, a letter of congratulations is in order, and your note on the Christmas card, while not quite as gracious, is certainly acceptable.
However, Miss Manners picks up the whiff of a suggestion that the recipients accuse her of figuring how much money in the way of wedding presents she is losing by not getting married, and hoping to collect by substituting the move as an event.
Miss Manners certainly hopes you are wrong. A great many people seem to believe that any event in their relatives' lives -- birth, graduation, marriage -- is held primarily out of the desire to get presents out of them. Miss Manners has never shared the view that the only possible motive for any human behavior is greed.
But even if you are right, the polite thing to do would be to ignore that possibility and behave just as if your niece were merely interested in letting you know where she is.