Long ago, ladies who found themselves in a delicate condition were supposed to refer to it, sartorially as well as conversationally, only with the greatest delicacy. And if young people today can't even imagine what is meant by "a delicate condition" -- well, that was the idea.
Naturally, people today regard this as an insult to motherhood, womanhood and everyone else in the hood. Childbirth itself being natural, why shouldn't it be out in the open? After all, the event that led up to it pretty much is.
Miss Manners can think of a reason that birth parties for friends are not in the best of taste: They interfere with the decorum that requires ladies who are appearing in company to keep their ankles demurely crossed. She also retains the prudery of believing that expectant mothers, no matter how justifiably proud of their expectations, should be discouraged from posing nude for general distribution.
However, she finds herself surprisingly charmed by the new maternity fashions that are more up front, so to speak, than in previous eras. Formerly, the declared purpose of such wardrobes was to hide the condition. Unfortunately, the tactic employed was to cover the lady in question with what appeared to be great rolls of wallpaper left over from decorating the nursery. This was a failure, both aesthetically and as camouflage.
Dresses, sweaters and blouses that frankly follow the emergent shape but are otherwise unexceptionable are surely an improvement. (That qualifier should be noted, however. The bellybutton is mistaken if it thinks itself a treat for all eyes. Displaying the place where it has disappeared along a stretched belly is not an improvement.)
Frank discussions are another matter. The reticence by parents-to-be in talking about pregnancy has disappeared as if it were unbecoming. But this had a purpose beyond protecting innocent children from speculating about where babies come from.
It helped protect innocent mothers from adults who not only speculate about where these particular babies have come from but ask the mother, as well as offering her scary warnings, making horrid remarks and poking and patting the work in progress.
There is no barrier left -- certainly not taste -- to inhibit the curious from annoying pregnant ladies now that the social silence on this subject is gone. The most these only-too-obvious targets can hope to do is to freeze out their tormentors by refusing to make the subject of pregnancy open to discussion.
Not announcing it with startling immediacy to anyone except one's intimates is a start. Not only can this cut a good three months off the time of public attack, but it saves one from making emotionally difficult explanations if anything goes wrong.
Once the pregnancy is observable, it means curbing one's natural exuberance and limiting the conversation to saying how happy one is and how fine one feels. (The version of the latter suitable for use by those being sick all over the place is, "Oh, I'm a little uncomfortable, but basically I'm fine, thanks.")
Never mind that the answer "We're so happy" does not exactly address the question, "Was this intentional?" and that "I'm fine, thanks" is an odd answer to "How come you're so huge?" It is time to learn that one does not have to explain everything -- prenatal practice for saying, "Because I say so, that's why."
Another phrase that needs practice is the one that fits unwanted touching: a firm "Now, stop that, please!"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am getting married to a wonderful woman in a romantic courtyard setting at my co-op apartment. She feels my suggestion to have the wedding time in the announcement complement the venue by showing the time as either "At Moonrise" or "At Sunset" is confusing and therefore breaches etiquette.
I feel it would be adding a special flair that guests would appreciate and think debonair. Surely one would immediately upon receipt think to go online or reference their handy Farmers Almanac or call one of us for clarification, any of which would clear any possible confusion.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners congratulates you on taking a sensible bride. Every romantic should have someone by his side saying, "What a charming idea. It won't work, of course, but it's such a charming idea."
This is especially necessary here because others would not be charmed by being fed whimsy instead of the basic information they would need to attend. You don't want this lovely lady to have to face an empty courtyard and say, "They're all so prosaic, darling; they just don't appreciate someone as debonair as you."