Would everybody who is dressing up for New Year's Eve please line up for inspection? Miss Manners doesn't want to delay the fun, but she wouldn't be doing her duty if she let people start out an entire millennium wrong.
You in the workout clothes, pajamas, whatever that is--you're fine; go to bed, and we'll come in and kiss you at midnight. No, not you: You agreed to go out, so you have an obligation to dress for the occasion and to spare us that lament about what an ordeal it is.
Would the following people please step out of line:
Ladies with leather shoes or bags. Those are daytime items, and evening clothes require something more delicate. Also, please remove your wristwatches. Miss Manners doesn't care how loaded with diamonds they are. Wristwatches still don't go with evening clothes.
Gentlemen wearing anything they think is original or amusing: It isn't. The very thought of gentlemen expressing originality or stimulating amusement through their wardrobes is depressing.
Ladies and gentlemen who have, in charming bursts of enthusiasm, acquired items for which they may not have acquired the rules: You don't have to turn in the items; you just have to learn how to use them.
Trains: Nobody is more pleased than Miss Manners to see trains back on holiday skirts and dresses. She has always thought that ladies should occupy as much space as possible, symbolically and otherwise. But the rule--"Don't board the train while it's in motion or, for that matter, while it is stationary"--is easier in theory than in practice.
When conducting a train, a lady should be on the alert for other traffic. In crowds, others have the right of way, so the lady should be prepared to clear the track (holding the train by a ribboned handle, a metal skirt lifter--I suspect that Miss Manners is the only one who seems to have one of these objects, once so useful for protecting a lady's wardrobe from the dirt and worse on the streets--or her own dainty hand). When standing in a crowded area, she can subtly rotate herself until the train is gathered into a neat circle around her feet.
Nevertheless, a prudent gentleman should also be on constant alert, walking ever-so-slightly ahead of any trained lady he is accompanying and keeping a lookout ahead for those he is not.
Medals: Strictly speaking, and with a few esoteric exceptions, these should be worn only upon request, with the most formal clothes (which means white tie for evening, not black tie) and uniforms. However, as white tie has become a rarity and Miss Manners hates to deprive heroes, she is wavering on the question of allowing invitations that specify "decorations" with dinner jackets.
Tiaras: These also belong to special, full-evening-dress occasions, and while Miss Manners is not particularly moved at the thought of deprivations to beauty queens, she is delighted at the return of the idea that the hair should be "dressed"--the original meaning of hairdressing--with something. Hats not being permissible in the evening, jewels, flowers or feathers may be worn and--oh, all right--perhaps discreet tiaras that could pass for ambitious headbands.
Gloves: Here Miss Manners allows no compromising. Bracelets and rings go inside, not outside, and never mind what you saw on royalty whose business it is to display the gross national product. Though gloves may be worn while dancing, they should never, ever be worn when approaching food or drink. Fashions come and go, as we have seen, but the option for changing this rule will not come up during the next millennium.
Dear Miss Manners:
How is it best to deal with a tedious person who can't take a hint and who is so lonely that he interprets every civil word as an invitation to linger and continue to talk? I've been known to open the front door and say something like, "We'll expect to see you next time, then," only to have him think of more to say--usually about himself.
I want to model proper manners for our child, including how to "invite out" someone whose welcome has expired. If it were anyone else, I'd employ the usual strategies until he was gone and then never invite him again. Obviously, that won't work in this case. He's going to enter our home again and again, and I really need an effective way to get him to go, but without hurting our child.
Miss Manners believes in an open-door policy. Walk your guest companionably to the door, arm around his shoulders if necessary, open it, and then say, "Oh, dear, I can't let you stand here in the cold, so I'll say good night." When this is completed, she believes in a closed-door policy.