DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am currently working on a research paper on the parental right to censor music. My question for you is, Should parents censor or monitor their children's listening habits? And, if so, how should they go about doing so?
GENTLE READER: Such a harsh word -- "censor." All freedom-loving people, even small ones, bristle when they hear it and rise to protect their liberties from those who would usurp them under the guise of benign paternalism.
But wait. Isn't benign paternalism what parents are supposed to provide? What else are they there for, besides providing the wherewithal to purchase disgusting music?
Miss Manners realizes that parents cannot hope to protect their children for long against outside influences, however nasty. The protection they can provide them is to teach them that there are other, higher standards, and that they subscribe to these and expect their children to do so.
Are the children actually going to do so? Of course not. But the parents can make rules against buying and bringing into the house what they consider to be vulgar or otherwise objectionable. They can also use the issue to discuss why they feel the way they do, thus making their resentful children aware that there are people -- including people they love and respect in spite of their differences in taste -- who maintain their own standards instead of succumbing to whatever is out there.
Will their rules and arguments be challenged, ridiculed and broken? Of course. That is why parents do need to do some reasonable monitoring.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What, precisely, are the obligations of the host when the guest room is also the living room? In a one-bedroom apartment, there is often a disconnect between the host's sleeping schedule and that of the guest.
I'm starting to dread going to my dad's very small apartment. First of all, he won't go to bed until 1 a.m. or so. The apartment is so configured that the only place to put the air mattress is right in front of his chair, and that can't be done until he retires for the evening (and he's not willing to do that earlier because the television is in the living room).
It then takes me until 3 a.m. to drop off. He gets up at 9 or 10 a.m., which means I have to get up, too, because he wants to watch television.
GENTLE READER: It is Miss Manners' painful obligation to tell you that someone who is not concerned about whether his daughter gets a good night's sleep is not going to change his habits upon being told that hosts are indeed obligated to make their guests comfortable. If you are an adult, she urges you to stay elsewhere when visiting your father. If you are a minor, she hopes you will confide the arrangements to someone in a position to insist that he accommodate you properly, even if it means sacrificing some television.