DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please tell me if I have been a bad girl. I was ordering lunch at the counter of a local deli when a woman I had not noticed came up behind me after having left her sunglasses on a table on the way in to "claim" it for herself. I obtained my lunch and went to find a table to sit at.
There was only one empty one, and it had a pair of sunglasses laying on it. I sat down anyhow and started to eat. (Am I a bad girl yet?)
After a while, the woman came over and said, "Excuse me, but those are MY glasses!" So I said, "Oh, here," and handed them to her. (Now am I bad?)
Then she said, "Oh, I was saving this table for my party." And I said, "Oh, I would be glad to share the space with you, why don't you join me?" I was pretty nice in my tone and expression. Really. (Now am I bad?)
She insisted that the table was "hers," and I was not welcome there; I don't recall the exact words. At that point, I was suddenly angry, and I gave her a "look." (I was thinking that I would really enjoy beating her to a bloody pulp with my bare hands, and I feel that I am capable of doing so.) The "look" said it all. (Now I know I am bad!)
But she did leave after that, without any further argument. Was I rude, or just assertive?
GENTLE READER: Let's take another look at that look.
OK, your tongue seems to have stayed in your mouth, and your thumb was not resting against your nose. Your words and tone were civil, and your violent fantasies were kept under control. Miss Manners is sorry to disappoint your hopes of being a bad girl, but she only bans people from being rude, not from defending themselves.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 50-year-old woman getting married for the second time in a fairly small ceremony (80) on a boat, but still in the traditional style. My father gave me away 31 years ago, at my first wedding, but I was thinking of having my eldest nephew give me away this time. He and I have always been very close, and I have no children.
Would this be proper? I don't want to hurt my father's feelings, and my mother thinks this is my father's job. I think that if he gave me gave me away once, I have already been given! Help!
GENTLE READER: Did he give you to your nephew? If not, what do you have in mind here? Giving everyone a turn?
Miss Manners is actually quite lenient about retaining the archaic custom that symbolizes the bride's leaving the protection of her father or guardian for that of her husband, now that the chances of its applying to today's bride are slight. Sentiment is sentiment, even if the bride left home long ago, already maintains a household with the bridegroom, and makes more money that he and her father do together.
Once given indeed ought to be enough, but if a second-time bride wishes to repeat it, under the guise of doing it right this time, Miss Manners will not be a spoiler. However, to keep the custom yet fire your father when he is prepared to try again is as silly as it is mean.