DEAR MISS MANNERS: Could you please explain the custom of the bride and groom leaving their reception early? I tried to explain this to my fiance, but could think of no better reason than, "That's just what you're supposed to do." Also, do you have an idea of when would be best to leave? I had assumed it would be about an hour before the reception is scheduled to end.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners fears that there is no way she can make young people today understand why brides and bridegrooms were eager to get away to be alone with each other, instead of partying all night, showing up at breakfast with their guests the next morning, and generally hanging on until their babies get cranky and they have to take them home.
She can, however, tell you when. After the cutting of the wedding cake and before the guests are asking one another when they can decently cut out.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please advise on the proper heading and salutation on a letter of recommendation going to a U.S. Congressman.
GENTLE READER: In the heading, the honorific and name require separate lines:
House of Representatives, etc.
The salutation, however, is simply "Dear Mr. Bramble." Miss Manners cautions you that this is the form whether you are recommending your niece for a job or recommending that your duly elected representative jump in a lake.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a single woman who sometimes takes the train on a long (7 to 8 hour) journey, I enjoy sitting by the window to pass the time. Since I board at the beginning of the line, I usually get a window seat.
During my last trip, I was asked by the conductor to give up my window seat so that a couple who boarded at a later stop could sit next to each other. I refused, simply saying "No," with, I am ashamed to say, a bit of eye-rolling.
I don't feel that my single status should make me the handmaiden of every married couple. How could I have politely but firmly gotten this message across?
GENTLE READER: It is not a polite message. You may be entitled to a window seat, but you are not entitled to generalize this request into a grudge against the married state.
Besides being unpleasant, it is ridiculous: plenty of people traveling alone are married, and many people who want to sit together, whether to hold hands or to do business, are not. Travelers should try to accommodate one another if they can, without unduly inconveniencing themselves.
Miss Manners is glad to hear that you are ashamed of the curt refusal and the eye-rolling. She expects you to keep your eyes still while you say to the conductor, "Of course, I'd be glad to, but I especially wanted to sit by the window. Would you be good enough to find me another window seat? And then we could change."