DEAR MISS MANNERS: In a popular televised British period drama, the ladies were shown at a ball accepting cups of punch and drinking them while wearing long evening gloves. The time was about 1925.
Was eating or drinking while wearing gloves proper then, and is it now? And if not, how and when does a lady remove her gloves in order not to make a spectacle of herself? I gather that she does properly wear gloves while dancing.
GENTLE READER: The only place where it seems to be traditional for ladies to eat or drink with gloved hands is in costume dramas. In real life, it was always considered crude, not to mention yucky, but in every period film, television show, play and opera, it is evidently intended to add a touch of what passes for “class.” Miss Manners pities the laborers who were taxed with cleaning those gloves afterward.
You are correct that gloves are worn during dancing, but they had to be removed before touching any refreshments. This was a good argument against drinking when dancing.
It would serve Miss Manners right if, after obeying her strict command to remove your gloves, you handed them to her. You might reasonably point out that ball dresses unaccountably lack pockets, and are cunningly constructed so that gloves placed on them when the wearer is seated slip off the lap, thus requiring the wearer’s unfortunate dinner partner to crawl under the table to fetch them.
If you cannot cram your gloves into your tiny evening bag, where we hope there is no makeup on the loose, you must hold them with your free hand when eating or drinking while you are standing. At dinner, she suggests surreptitiously sitting on them, but please don’t tell anyone she said so.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Would it be inappropriate to have a wedding reception three years after the wedding?
GENTLE READER: In what possible sense would this be a wedding reception? There is no wedding attached to it, even remotely. Unfortunately, Miss Manners can guess the intent. So, she warns, will your guests.
Couldn’t you wait two years and give a party for your fifth anniversary? Or, better yet, go ahead and throw a party now, but make it a party to please your guests, not to honor yourselves.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At my father-in-law’s recent wake, there was a guest book. I assumed its purpose was to give the family a record of those who attended, but my wife explained that it had the additional purpose of providing the list so that thank-you notes could be sent.
This surprised me. Presumably everyone came to show respect for the deceased, sympathy to the family, or both. My wife and her sisters stood in a receiving line and personally thanked all who attended for their kind words. Is this not enough?
GENTLE READER: Actually, yes. But the amateur etiquette world is divided between those who believe that the bereaved should be excused from writing thanks for anything on the grounds that they have suffered enough, and those who believe, as your wife does, that it is necessary to write thanks to everyone who attended the funeral.
They are both wrong. Attendance at the funeral is done, as you say, out of respect and compassion, and need not require subsequent thanks. But anyone who takes the trouble to write a condolence letter, send flowers, bring food or perform other services deserves to be formally thanked.
Rather than overtaxing the emotional strength of the family, tasks done on behalf of the deceased tend to sustain them. Miss Manners has observed that it is when there is nothing more to be done that the reality of the loss often hits with full force. At that time, it is good to have shown those who care that their care is appreciated.
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