DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a member of a club that has been meeting once a month during the academic year for over 60 years. Our meetings begin with a social hour at a member's house, then we proceed to dinner and an after-dinner talk by another member at the Faculty Club or a local restaurant. In its earlier years, membership was limited to men, most of them professors. But for many years now, women and nonacademics, as well as spouses and guests, have been welcome as well.
Our problem is a young and attractive woman, a successful single professional, who has been a member of the club for two or three years. She has attached herself to an 82-year-old (and long-married) retired professor in her field, one of the senior members of the group. Whenever they are both present (his wife does not attend), she entwines herself about him, crossing ankles, stroking arms, breathing in his ear throughout the after-dinner talk. If he is not present, she may try to go through the same routine with another male member.
May/December romances are all very well. But this predatory woman persists in behaving like a randy teen-age exhibitionist during meetings, distracting anyone in her line of sight, insulting the speaker, and troubling those of us who know the wives of her prey.
One could say it is the duty of these men to temper her behavior. But I fear they may be too old, too confused or too polite to know what to say -- as, I fear, are many of the rest of us, women as well as men.
Is there any civil, inoffensive way to ask this woman to desist?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is a bit confused here herself. Why would someone think that politeness forbids disentangling himself from such a situation? Would any gentleman who came upon his wife so entwined accept the explanation that she thought it only proper to succumb?
And why would a gentleman be attending a meeting of academics if he is in such an advanced state of aged confusion that he is unaware that another person has entwined herself with him? Tenure?
Never mind. Your interest should be in preserving the decorum of the meeting, not in safeguarding the morals of the members, which is beyond your jurisdiction, not to say control. The way to do this is for the person who is running the meeting to stop the proceedings and say, "Madam, sir, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to do that outside."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I use my given name, Patricia, on my business cards, name tags, etc., but I prefer to be called by my nickname, Pat. In business situations, should I have "Pat" printed on my cards? I do try to have my nickname used on temporary nametags, such meetings and conferences.
GENTLE READER: In an ideal world, you would have your formal name printed on your card and people would address you using only your surname with a title until you said, charmingly, "Oh, please call me Pat."
But you're not in the ideal world; you're in the modern business world. People are probably going to call you whatever first name they read on the card. Perhaps "Hi, Patricia (Pat), how ya doing?"
So, it is just as well that you put only "Pat" on nametags, as that is how you prefer to be addressed. A way to preserve your formal name on your cards -- and offer a semblance of the aforementioned charm -- would be to draw a line through "Patricia" before you hand one over, writing "Pat" there instead.