DEAR MISS MANNERS: For parties at which guests need not show up at a precise hour (e.g., cocktails, tea, at home), the first couple to arrive feels awkward about having arrived first. Furthermore, it is the fear of this awkwardness that causes guests to arrive at some random interval after the invitation time, and, in turn, causes hosts to second-guess their guests when choosing that invitation time in the first place.
My wife and I, therefore, invite a particular couple to serve as the designated first couple for the event. This couple, usually flattered to have been made an official part of the proceedings, agrees to show up exactly on time, and, of course, feels no awkwardness at arriving first. No other guest ever does arrive first.
While we cannot be sure that this custom of ours is responsible, we have found that, over time, guests are arriving nearer to parties' invitation times. If you like the idea of a designed first couple, please feel free to share it.
GENTLE READER: Indeed, Miss Manners would be delighted, provided you will allow her the privilege of reciprocating.
Her contribution is sort of the bookend to yours. This is the designated first person to go home -- the dear friend who, at a glance from the host, gets up and says, "My goodness, I had no idea what time it was!" Even after a wonderful evening, it serves to relieve guests who mistakenly believe that there is something rude about going home, as well as hosts who are beginning to believe they never will.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have fallen in love with a gentleman I have been dating for a while. He said he loves me, and we spend a lot of time together doing things. I enjoy his company, and I know he enjoys mine.
My problem is that he has women friends all over the globe whom he corresponds with and telephones. Do I have the right to be angry, even if these women are looking for an American husband?
GENTLE READER: Just a minute, please, while Miss Manners checks the Bill of Rights. In the meantime, you might tell her what you really want to know.
Is it whether a gentleman in love should lose his correspondence privileges? Is it whether it would be decorous in a lady to attempt to take them away? Is it whether it would be wise or even feasible in a lady to take them away?
The answer to all those questions is no.
However, if you wish to know whether the gentleman in question is checking out the foreign scene to find out whether he might be better off with someone else, the answer is beyond Miss Manners' scope. She can only tell you that if such is the case, you will eventually find out one way or another.
True, you might be able to find out sooner by means of the showdown you propose. But if the gentleman is faithful and merely innocently friendly, your raising the question of whether he wants to live under censorship could easily inspire the desire to do better.