DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an attorney. From time to time, I have lunch with my colleagues, both male and female, either for business, or pleasure, or both.
When I need to excuse myself to the ladies' room, I am never sure whether to take my purse and/or coat with me or leave it at the table, especially if it is at the end of the meal. I do not want my colleagues to feel obligated to watch my personal items, but I also don't want my colleagues to feel as though I don't trust them enough to leave these things behind.
When I'm with my friends, I just leave the items at the table, but I don't know if the business setting or the gender of my colleagues alters the protocol. What is the proper thing to do?
GENTLE READER: You may be worried about your possessions, but Miss Manners is worried about your colleagues. Why do you suspect them, unlike your friends? And what, exactly, do you suspect they'll do? Rifle your purse? Sit idly by while a stranger dons your coat and marches out? Or perhaps that they'll commit the etiquette crime of leaving without warning while you are in the ladies' room?
If so, you can take your things with you without fear of giving offense. The presumption will be that you took your purse because it contains lipstick that you will reapply in the ladies' room, and your coat because you plan to put it on there. Or -- if they are as suspicious of you as you are of them -- because you plan to slip out the back door and stick them with the bill.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We live in one state, my son is marrying in a small wedding in a second state, and they will live across the country in a third state, where he is employed by a branch of our federal justice department.
The agents in this branch take great pains to protect information about their home addresses and telephone numbers, and all mail for them is sent to an agency box number. Packages that cannot be mailed to a box are shipped to the office address.
We are helping them by arranging for engraved announcements to be mailed on the day of the wedding, in the proper traditional form with the bride's parents announcing the wedding. How could we do "at home" cards? His and our friends, in town and out, do not know where they live.
GENTLE READER: And they don't want anyone to find out. This suggests that they should not be sending out "at home" cards, as the purpose of "at home" cards is to let interested people know where a newly married couple will be living. There is no formal way of saying, "We've moved, but we're not going to tell you where."
Miss Manners supposes that you merely want to assist polite people who will want to send congratulations (or even presents, although they should not be expected from announcements). She suggests putting whatever mailing address the couple uses as a return address on the envelope.