DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper position of the little finger when holding a teacup? Raised? I had tea with a local dowager, and she clearly, but not pretentiously, raised the little finger of the hand that was holding her teacup. I know that this is not a question of world-shattering importance, but it is serious, and I am sure that many people would like to know the proper form for holding the teacup.
GENTLE READER: It depends on how old the local dowager is. In the 17th century, when tea was introduced into Europe from China, it was drunk in dainty, handleless cups, and anyone with any sense kept as few fingers as possible on the (yeow!) hot cup.
When some genius invented the handled cup, this was no longer necessary, and Miss Manners finds it astonishing that the gesture has stuck in public memory all these years. Your dowager happens to be the only one who remembers it seriously. Because imported tea had been frightfully expensive, the gesture has lived on for centuries as an affectation of the rich and pretentious.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the several months that my boyfriend and I were dating, we were very close indeed, and there was always the idea (though neither of us came right out and said it) that we would eventually marry.
With the breakup, however, I have not let myself fall into the funk that many young women my age in a situation like this seem to sink into. Why waste my time pining for someone who obviously doesn't love me as I thought he did?
I have even struck up somewhat of a relationship with a friend from work. There is no pressure for commitment from either of us, but I like him very much.
Am I being "unfaithful" to my previous relationship by entering into another (though significantly less serious) one so soon? Is it acceptable to give my co-worker a small hug when greeting him at work, or asking him to call me later if one of us leaves before the other?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners was about to reply indignantly that etiquette does not create unnecessary gloom by demanding that perfectly happy people pretend to suffer, but she realized this is not quite true.
It thoroughly disapproves of dancing on graves and, by extension, over dead marriages. Not that anyone listens. And it requires workers to refrain from hugging one another on the job. However, you will be happy to hear that it does not mandate a period of official moping for broken romances.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are the parents of a groom who will wed his fiancee at a destination wedding. We would like to host the rehearsal dinner, but are confused about who should be invited to it. Everyone will be from out of town and to invite all of them just seems like the first of two weddings. We were planning a sit-down dinner party, but then does that exclude a daughter, grandfather, etc.? Help!
GENTLE READER: Too late. Miss Manners cannot rescue you from entertaining people whom you and yours have lured on a vacation trip -- because that is what a destination wedding amounts to. She only wishes she could rescue those who have agreed to vacation with you under the impression that you wanted to spend several days with them.