DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are a family of recent immigrants who have just received their permanent residency permits. While we came to the United States on a temporary assignment, we have grown to love this country and have every intention of staying. It is quite likely that we will become naturalized citizens in the future, but we are, at this moment, citizens of The Netherlands.
We were as shocked and outraged by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 as any American, and we would have liked to show our sympathy with the victims and our support of America by flying the stars and stripes.
It is my understanding, however, that one doesn't properly fly the flag of a nation of which one is not a citizen. So as not to offend anybody at a time of tragedy, we decided in the end to display only the Dutch flag at half-staff on the day that was declared a national day of mourning in The Netherlands. We did, however, wear red, white and blue, as those are also the Dutch national colors.
Can you tell us if we acted properly? We would appreciate your advice on proper flag etiquette for the future.
GENTLE READER: It is not uncommon for Miss Manners' Gentle Readers to ask for retroactive judgment on a problem they have already handled, with the explanation that the same situation might arise again. But your reference to future necessity made her blanch.
What you did was respectful to both the United States and your own country, although it is not improper to fly the American flag along with (although never lower than, and always to the right of) another country's flag, as is regularly done in honor of state visitors.
On extraordinary occasions, it is not improper to fly only another country's flag to indicate solidarity in time of crisis. Miss Manners hopes you will not have a future occasion to apply this rule.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a wedding of a distant relative, I had not had the honor of meeting his intended, and I went to the receiving line. When I introduced myself, she sneered and said, "I have heard about you; you work in a library. I know all I need to know about you!" And then she turned away.
As it happens I am administrating a major Internet delivery system at a well-known and respected institution. And I was dressed very well. I went back home and have not had anything to do with them since.
I am planning to buy a house this fall. When I have my housewarming party, must I invite them?
GENTLE READER: No, on several counts:
1. The person in question snubbed you, indicating that she does not want to know you socially.
2. One should avoid putting one's guests in the position of meeting a rude person.
3. A housewarming is not one of those formal occasions where you feel obliged to invite your relatives, regardless of their personal attributes.
However, if you go by this, Miss Manners may never know what on earth that insult meant. She is aware that people have a lot of silly notions about librarians, but hadn't thought any were so excitingly sinful as to inspire a direct cut.