DEAR MISS MANNERS: I appear to have committed some type of etiquette error at my 30th high school reunion.
No dress was advised, but when I called about this I was told "elegant but not black tie" -- not a lot of help. My husband wore a navy blue suit and I decided on a satin tea-length dress. As I have near-waist-length hair, I opted for an up-do, done at a salon. It was a simple French twist, the way I always have my hair done for more formal events.
No sooner than we went to the event than people started talking about my hair. Specifically, they couldn't believe I'd had it "done." While my dress was OK with the "group opinion," the fact that I'd had my hair done was clearly outside the norm. While all of the women wore dresses, none had up-dos.
Is there an etiquette rule for a more formal hairstyle? I thought an up-do (simple, not prom hair) was appropriate for a 48-year-old woman, but I seemed to have missed something along the way.
GENTLE READER: Are you quite certain that the event you attended was your 30th high school reunion? Is it possible that you wandered into the sophomore prom by mistake?
Groups of people who hone in on one person to deliver an on-the-spot criticism -- always with an air of belief that their catty opinions are indisputable and helpful -- have provided generations of citizens with a lifetime feeling of relief that they are no longer in high school.
Even the most callous bullies are supposed to have learned something in the subsequent 30 years, if only that bullying is dangerous. The technique only worked in high school because it preys on victims during a stage of life where many are uncertain enough about themselves to worry that it is they who are wrong, and not their tormentors.
What alarms Miss Manners more is that you do not seem to have used those 30 years to learn that you can wear your hair as you please, and that etiquette does not side with bullies.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have known that our son is gay for three years, since he was 15 years old. We told a few close relatives and left it at that until he was old enough to address issues himself.
Lately, however, he has run into a problem concerning well-meaning acquaintances and friends inquiring about his sexual preference, since he is presently 18 and doesn't date.
"Don't you like girls?" is the favorite. He replies that he does like girls, knowing that this reply is honest in a way, but not in the way they mean. He wants to be honest and true to himself without revealing information he doesn't feel is any of their business.
GENTLE READER: It seems to Miss Manners that your son already has the answer he wants. His choice is whether to reply to the text of the question or to the subtext. He chose to respond to the surface text.
The subtext is a demand to know about his sex life. This is never anyone's business to ask, as it is up to individuals to decide with whom they wish to discuss that subject.