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Miss Manners: Newspaper rule still applies, even in digital age

Dear Miss Manners: I live in a city, and my house is closely surrounded by tall buildings. In the mornings, I often briefly go out to the fenced back garden to perform tasks such as feeding the birds or toting recyclables to the bin.

I am often not yet dressed for public presentation, but rather am wearing casual loungewear that I would never wear on the street. Neighbors in upper floors could easily observe me. My assumption has been that my garden is private, and that those peering in should be prepared for the shmatte. Is it your opinion that I may continue my ways without offending?

The old rule, which Miss Manners probably invented, was called Newspaper on the Porch. It meant that you could dash out in your bathrobe and grab the paper without being seen. Well, you might actually be seen, but observers were required to dismiss the image from their brains.

Now that people can read the paper online without exposing themselves, Miss Manners will transfer the rule to your situation. As long as you are decently covered, polite neighbors are required not to register in their minds any glimpse they may have of you. They should therefore not greet you with, “I see you had a lot of trash this week. Nice jammies, though.” (Others’ trash is another thing that should not be noticed.) If they do, the response should be a puzzled, “I beg your pardon?”

Dear Miss Manners: If the coronavirus is under control in 2022, my daughter, my granddaughter and I are planning a visit to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Lisbon. We are planning on attending a high tea at Edinburgh Castle. What does one wear to a high tea? How does one comport themselves?

You may have been misled by the constant misuse of “high tea” by American hotels, which focus on the adjective, thinking it refers to “high society.”

In fact, it is the opposite. High society — a term that, when coined, meant “people who wouldn’t dream of working for a living because they didn’t have to” — developed “afternoon tea.” This ritual consisted of dainty sandwiches, scones and sweets to quiet their stomach rumblings between meals.

In contrast, high tea is a full meal: supper for workers who go to bed early to be at work the next morning, or for children who are banished before the adult fun starts. Therefore, high tea includes meat and other hot foods and baked goods.

It is Miss Manners’ understanding that in Scotland, high tea is somewhat closer to afternoon tea in England, but it is still not quite the same thing, because it includes hot food — meat pie, fish, game or such — and hearty baked goods.

Dress and comportment are the same as for any daytime meal in a nice place, but you might want to check with the castle before making dinner reservations.

Dear Miss Manners: I am sending out invitations for a baby shower for my friend's son and his live-in girlfriend. How do I refer to her on the invitation? As his friend, paramour or what?

Society has settled on the term “partner,” Miss Manners observes. You will do your friend no favors by antagonizing the mother of her grandchild.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2021, by Judith Martin