DEAR MISS MANNERS: Have I lost step with the times? Is it now acceptable for fathers-to-be to attend baby showers? At showers I've attended and given in the past, the fathers-to-be arrived toward the end of the affair to lend a hand only.
GENTLE READER: Yes, you have lost step with the times, and you can't imagine how much fun Miss Manners has saying that. Every other question she gets that includes such an approach notes a change for the worse, with the plaintive fear that it might have entered mainstream etiquette. As if it is Miss Manners' job to dumb the field down to accommodate bad habits.
The fact that people have noticed that children, and prospective children, have fathers as well as mothers is indeed a change, but a good one. Miss Manners has no objection whatever to baby showers for both parents.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a new, gated retirement community. At the front entrance they recently installed five flagpoles of the same height. On the right side is the American flag, on the left the state flag, and in between are three commercial flags all flying at the same height.
When I grew up we were taught that the American flag flew from the highest point, followed by the state flag slightly lower. Am I an old fogey out of touch with the new flag etiquette? What is the correct method of displaying our country's flag in this situation?
GENTLE READER: The nation has not yet sold its flag's place of honor to a fast food or telecommunications business. However, let us be careful not to give anyone ideas.
The American flag should, indeed, have been placed higher than these other flags, and also in the middle. Miss Manners hopes you will point this out politely to your community's gatekeepers.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 22-year-old female who is interning with a nonprofit organization. Most of my co-workers are females over the age of 50, and I feel a bit uncomfortable addressing them by their first names, as it seems a bit disrespectful to me. I also do not necessarily wish to refer to them as "Mrs. So and So" because that might seem too formal.
While growing up, my mother (who is from the South) instructed me to refer to older family friends and acquaintances as Miss Anne or Miss Erika, etc. I have always used this practice, without before realizing that it might be seen as childish or disrespectful.
Is this practice appropriate for the workplace? Or should I call them Mrs. So and So until told otherwise?
GENTLE READER: As the junior employee, in rank and probably in age, it is not for you to decide how your colleagues should be addressed. Not even, Miss Manners regrets to say, by importing a custom that, however charming, is not used nationally.
The way to determine what others prefer is not, oddly enough, to ask them. For reasons beyond Miss Manners' understanding, even those who wish to be addressed in a dignified, formal manner are reluctant to say so. As you have suggested, it is better to begin by calling them Mrs., permitting them to suggest something less formal if they wish to do so.