DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a gentleman who is required to wear a necktie at my job. I love my job, but hate wearing a tie.
Most of my morning commute is spent riding the subway in the metropolis where I live. I leave my house with my tie around my neck and under my collar, but not tied. I know the correct point on the subway to begin tying it, so it is in place when I reach my stop.
My wife opines that this constitutes going out in public “not fully dressed.” I believe that because I am wearing a shirt, pants, and shoes that are appropriate for my job, and that each is correctly buttoned, fastened and/or closed before I leave the house, then I meet the standard of being fully dressed. Perhaps not fully accessorized, but certainly fully dressed.
Is this a matter of manners, or of fashion? As long as I don’t inconvenience (e.g. elbow) anyone else in the process, is it rude to wait until I am riding the subway to knot my tie?
GENTLE READER: When was the last time your wife rode the subway? You might take her for an outing, just to show her the modern definition of not being fully dressed.
If that doesn’t persuade her to approve your current practice, Miss Manners advises you to leave the house while she is otherwise occupied.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the rule for giving out thank-you cards for Christmas gifts you have received? I have a co-worker who complained in general yesterday that she hasn’t gotten any thank-you cards for the gifts she’s given out.
My thinking is that if Jane Doe and John Doe both give each other Christmas gifts, that’s an even exchange and therefore no formal thank-you is needed. It’s like there is balance and understanding within that relationship. But if Jane gives John a gift and doesn’t get one back from John, a formal thank-you would be in order from John to acknowledge that he appreciates the care and time that Jane has taken on his behalf. What is the rule on this, or is there a rule?
GENTLE READER: Yes, there is a rule, and Miss Manners knows that you know it, or you wouldn’t go to such lengths to try to subvert it.
Gratitude and reciprocation are related, but one does not cancel out the other. Your expression of thanks is not a gift that relieves you of the necessity to reciprocate, and the receipt of a present does not excuse you from expressing gratitude.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation to an event that I am unable to attend. I sent my RSVP as requested, and then I received, by return mail, not only an acknowledgement of my response but a clearly cutting comment on my inability to attend.
I have never before received a response to an RSVP, except verbally (along the lines of “I was sorry to see you can’t join us”). I’m wondering if, all these years, I should have been sending something formal in response to the response, though presumably not something quite as cutting as I received.
GENTLE READER: What did your host respond? “Good, we didn’t really want to see you anyway”?
The rules have not changed to allow insulting -- or even interrogating, which is more common -- those who decline invitations. “We’ll miss you” is allowed but not required.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)