DEAR MISS MANNERS: For the second time this year, I have had a curious thing happen to me: after asking young ladies out on dates -- to which each said yes (apparently with sincerity) and chose an evening -- they then came to me a few days later (but before the date) to say that they had changed their minds and would not go out with me.
In the first case, the young lady changed her mind so that she could go out with a friend of mine, who had asked her out after she'd already agreed to go out with me!
Now, it's said that "a woman's prerogative is to change her mind," yet I feel as if once a woman has agreed to go out and we've chosen an evening and a place, she should at least go through with it, and if she doesn't like me, to decline a second date. But changing her mind seems rude.
Am I wrong about this? And how should I behave toward these ladies? I've been courteous, but after such mind-changing, I certainly don't feel friendly toward them.
GENTLE READER: It is a lady's prerogative to change her mind after agreeing to marry you. It is a lady's prerogative to run back and change her shoes after you have agreed that it is time to go. But it is not a lady's prerogative to accept a social engagement, potentially romantic or not, and change her mind about going.
Besides, we are closer to having equal rights these days (although not so close that a gentleman may change his shoes). Miss Manners asks you to consider how one of these ladies would have reacted had you announced, after setting up the date, that you had found someone with whom you preferred to spend that evening.
She is not, however, endorsing your behaving that way, which would be no more gentlemanly than their behavior was ladylike. The polite reaction to a snub is to refrain from intruding your acquaintanceship on someone who has rejected it.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My unmarried niece gave birth to a little girl last month. Earlier in her pregnancy, her family sent out invitations for a baby shower. Since she lives several states away, I sent a monetary gift and received a lovely thank-you note in return.
I was later quite surprised to learn that the baby was given up for adoption. Is it appropriate to have a shower when the baby is to be given up for adoption? If this was a last-minute decision, should I not have been sent a note of explanation? I do not wish my gift returned, I just feel as if I should have been informed.
GENTLE READER: As a matter of family news, Miss Manners agrees that you should have been informed, but you seem to relate this courtesy to your contribution to the shower. That is a mistake: the baby was born, you gave her a present and you were graciously thanked.
Now -- could we not look too closely into the question of whether there should have been a shower? The decision about adopting might have been made subsequently, as you realize. But even if not, perhaps your niece simply craved this small ritual and wanted to send the child off with things from her family. Miss Manners is not able to begrudge her that.