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Miss Manners: Toddlers can wait to acquire formal niceties

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a 3-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. My best friend has two daughters, roughly the same ages, and is of the opinion that I must begin teaching my son “to behave like a gentleman.”

For now that includes pulling out chairs for girls, opening and holding doors for them, standing every time they sit down at or leave the table, that sort of thing. Down the line this would expand to include actions like always paying when with a woman, whether or not they are on a date, and having her wait while he runs around to open the car door for her.

I disagree with her. As gallant and romantic as such actions would be, I fear in the coming years he would be more likely to offend the women and embarrass the other men involved. (Not that I think this is the way it should be, but I believe it is where our society is heading.)

I am teaching both of my children to simply be courteous to others. Whoever gets to the door first opens and holds it for the person behind him (or her). They both should stand while greeting a new person approaching the table . . . you get the idea.

GENTLE READER: Indeed. Those are the standard courtesies of our time. Little girls who are being brought up to expect to have their bills paid by male acquaintances and their male bosses to rise when they enter the room are in for some big shocks.

Miss Manners admits to hoping that reasonable gallantry survives — in the social sphere only — but not by expecting it of 3-year-olds. Like toddlers in mini versions of dinner jackets and other adult clothing, that would be just a bit icky.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have received a few Christmas cards with photos of tween and teen girls in string bikinis. I am a mother and this makes me cringe. What is your opinion?

GENTLE READER: That these cards were misaddressed.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please tell your readers not to send death notices in their Christmas cards/letters. I received three such Christmas cards.

One was of a good friend, and I was devastated that I wasn’t told at the time when she died. My husband died last year, and it lifted my spirits to get cards and letters from friends, but when I opened the ones that told me about people dying, I was so depressed.

Please don’t use the holidays to tell your friends/family that someone died. This is not the time to do so — this is supposed to be a happy occasion!

GENTLE READER: For many, it seems to be the only occasion for writing at all, and therefore the repository of both good news and bad.

One problem, Miss Manners notes, is that Americans do not send out death notices — black-bordered cards with a formal printed message — as is done in other countries. People complain of the shock of seeing such notices in social media, as well as on Christmas cards.

She quite agrees that death is solemn enough to be announced alone, not thrown in with other sentiments.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

, by Judith Martin



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