DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a man is a woman's escort, no matter the occasion, isn't he responsible for her safety for the entire evening?
I have insisted that when a gentleman wishes to dance with the lady I am with, he should first request permission from me. A simple "Excuse me, may I ask your lady to dance?" would be sufficient.
It seems that today many men think every woman is fair game and many do get angry when a lady refuses to dance with them. On the other hand, I have had a few women tell me it isn't a big thing for a man to go directly to her and ask her to dance.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners fears that you may have missed the half-century during which ladies examined the gallant custom of gentlemanly protection. As you profess to know what gentlemen of today think, allow her to bring you up to date on what ladies of today think.
They think it is up to them to decide when their safety is in peril.
This is because they noticed that gentlemen, in their zealousness to protect ladies -- especially from the gentlemen's own venomous kind -- routinely overlooked a few niceties. One was that they neglected to consult the ladies, and another was that their protection did not so often curtail the freedom of villains, as it did that of the ladies.
But even in the most constricted times, it was considered the privilege of the lady to entertain offers to dance directly. Only when one gentleman cut in on another in mid-dance was he supposed to murmur, "May I cut in?" without waiting for an answer before spiriting the lady away.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a 13-year-old daughter who I believe is well mannered and well behaved. Many people have complimented me for this.
When I go to family affairs, it seems to me that the children -- especially the boys of my brother, sister and cousins -- are a little wild. I believe that my siblings think that it is OK or even cute.
I feel it is semi-important for extended families to get together and get to know one another, but is it acceptable for me to comment to my sister, brother and cousins (and their spouses) that the behavior of their children is other than what I really want my daughter to be associated with? It wouldn't be that big of a deal, except that they routinely ask me if my daughter can spend a week with them during summer vacation.
GENTLE READER: Criticizing other people's child-rearing methods, or the absence of them, is rude. If you do this, your brother, sister and cousins might consider you the sort of person with whom they don't want their children to be associated.
Unless by "a little wild" you mean physically or morally dangerous, Miss Manners would advise you to send your daughter off on that visit. She might learn some important manners lessons you have failed to teach her: that some people have higher standards than others, that she should practice good behavior whether others do or not, and that relatives should be cherished in spite of their shortcomings.