Dear Miss Manners:
I am in need of advice as to the correct name or title I should use in requesting or inquiring about a possible position as a lady's maid. The description seems somehow unusual or out of date. Please allow me to explain.
One of the talents I possess is the ability to improve anyone's appearance. I have a cosmetology license, know textiles, and am very good with the details of dressing properly for any given occasion. I can do some hand sewing and ironing, and can send the person or object of my attentions out to meet the world in the best possible condition. I can make something out of nothing.
I dislike working a 9-to-5 job. Period. I have spent a lifetime caring for other humans and their needs. Now, perhaps it is time to start making a career (a paying one). When I send my letter of inquiry, should I request the position as a dresser?
Miss Manners hardly knows whether she is sighing over this question because it would be so lovely to have a lady's maid or because it is so lovely that you take pride in having the skills to be one.
For a long time, there was a notion that all ladies were supposed to have such skills, at least in regard to themselves. There was also the odd notion that it was admirable to do these things for oneself but, along with cleaning house and rearing children, shameful to do them for someone else. Even now, when these services are more valuable than ever, they lack prestige, not to mention decent pay and working conditions.
A common way to combat this ridiculous injustice has been to make the titles of the belittled jobs into something that sounds more important. "Estate manager" for keeping house, for example.
It seems to Miss Manners as if doing this acknowledges that the job is not important and must be disguised. She supposes that you would do better offering yourself as a personal stylist or image maintainer than a lady's maid, but she thinks that a pity.
Dear Miss Manners:
I am going to throw my husband a surprise 80th birthday party, but I don't want the guests to feel they have to give gifts and if they do I would like them to contribute to a hospice, because I think they do a great thing. We don't need hospice care at this time, but might in the future.
How would I put that in the invitation? Or would I just not say anything and let him get gifts which he doesn't want or need?
Miss Manners is glad to be able to retreat here to the general rule that it is rude to look upon guests as a source of either goods or money, and no better when you want to use the money to do good.
Giving to charity is a wonderful impulse, but not when you are being so generous with other people's money. Whatever presents people give your husband will be his, however, and he is free to dispose of them in a charitable way.
This should save Miss Manners' having to mention that while the cause you mention is an excellent one, connecting it with the celebration of someone's 80th birthday is not a happy idea. Please find another way to offer it your support.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin