At the behest of a French gastronomic consortium, the Vatican was rumored to be considering removing gluttony from the list of the Seven (formerly Deadly, now Venial) Sins.
That's the good news, said a gentleman of Miss Manners' acquaintance. "The bad news," he said, "is that cheese is going on."
Quite apart from the context of Church doctrine, strange things have long been happening to the entire list for some time, Miss Manners has noticed. The popular moral tab rates all seven on a scale from respectable to admirable.
Avarice is the national sport, with its competition for how much money people can make and how many things they can buy, and Envy keeps score and urges people on.
Sloth had a triumph when technology enabled workers to play games and exchange gossip while appearing to be hard at work on their computers.
Pride scored an even bigger victory when it was put on the school curriculum, self-esteem having come to be identified as a prerequisite for achievement rather than a result of it.
Wrath defeated civility itself, so that concern for humanity could be invoked as an excuse for treating people badly.
And as for lust ...
In comparison, overeating seems harmless enough. It is possible to chomp away quietly, without taunting or cheating others, presuming one does not empty the platter before it has been passed all the way around the table.
The etiquette danger, at any rate, is more likely to come nowadays from those who pay careful attention to what they eat and also to what everybody else eats. (See Wrath, above.)
If Gluttony is excessive attention to food and drink, negative attention should qualify, too. In a society where everyone is either overweight or a picky eater, maintaining gluttony as a sin would require locking everyone up in their own dining rooms.
Those dining rooms are empty enough for the purpose, because they have become the last places that any such sins would be committed. Eat in the dining room? Isn't that what we have sidewalks, kitchens, offices, bedrooms, stores, media rooms, classes, movies and cars for?
Without presuming that we can abolish sin, either by refraining from practicing it or by declaring it a virtue, Miss Manners thinks we would be better off to return to the dining room for regular meals.
For one thing, gluttons and everyone else might learn how to eat properly, which is to say without revolting others. Nightly parental instruction helps, but the most effective method consists of the vivid impressions that siblings perform of one another's eating methods. The family dinner table is also where the art of conversation is learned, beginning with the pretense that you are just as interested in hearing what other people have been doing and thinking as you are in talking.
As a bonus, it is possible that if people get used to eating at given times in the company of others, they will become less anxiously focused on food.
They might even learn to enjoy it more. As Miss Manners recalls about another of the sins, nobody disapproved of its providing pleasure as long as it was done properly at home, and not in the streets.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a college student, about to graduate and get out in the workforce. I have heard and seen that most people choose to dress conservatively at an interview. How conservative should I go? Am I allowed to wear a pantsuit or is the skirt suit the only choice for me?
I don't like conservatism in general and I like to be able to show a touch of my personality and style in the way I dress.
What would you mostly recommend for college females ready to get out into the real world? Is this the time when dressing conservatively is the ultimate best choice?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners hopes it doesn't disappoint you to hear that pantsuits are no longer considered cutting edge. Female senators wear them to work.
The rule about interviews is to dress for the job you want. Perhaps there are fields in which college students are sought for their personalities and style, in which case you would do well to exhibit yours. For prospective employers who hire people for their skills or industry, however, this might be a sign that you are more interested in displaying yourself than in fitting in.