DEAR MISS MANNERS: Per the invitation my husband and I received to a cocktail party, the dress code was "tenue de ville."
However, after a long day at work, my husband chose the embarrassment of being underdressed to the annoyance of being uncomfortable. He wore dress pants and a dress shirt, but left the tie at home.
When we arrived, the party's hostess skipped the greeting to ask my husband where his tie was. In front of other guests, she said she was sorry she did not have an extra tie, seeming to imply that my husband could not attend the party sans tie.
My husband stomped off after explaining he did not have a tie. She then asked me to ask my husband to go home to get a tie. Since she has a higher position in my husband's workplace, he felt he had to comply. I realize that by the rules of this game my husband was at fault for failing to wear a tie. But, was the hostess' reaction appropriate?
GENTLE READER: If you are asking whether a hostess should let a guest get away with being twice rude, the answer is a sad yes. Hosts should set dress standards, but should not enforce them at the door and risk embarrassing their guests.
But didn't you tell Miss Manners that your husband was volunteering to be embarrassed? Then why is he indignant -- as opposed to disappointed -- that this turned out to be the case? True, the embarrassment should have come from his knowing he was wrong, rather than the hostess's pointing it out, but you gave little indication that he would supply it. On the contrary, he was willing to respect the lady only as his professional superior, not as his hostess. Yet he was outraged that she treated him as a subordinate rather than a guest.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband died in July. I put a black ribbon on our front door, which is still there. It makes me sad every time I come home and see it, but I was told that putting black bunting on your front door was the proper thing to do. I would like to know how long I should leave it on my door.
GENTLE READER: Take it down now. While the custom is rarely practiced these days and Miss Manners can't imagine who told you that propriety demanded it, its function is to symbolize that the house is in mourning and thus discourage any frivolous approaches. When it makes you sad instead of protecting you, it should be removed.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter and I host a Christmas tea every year -- usually a couple of weeks before Christmas (around the 15th or so). This year, because of the busy schedules of many of our 200 guests, the tea will be in early December.
Since there aren't too many days between Thanksgiving Day and the day of the tea this year, would it be appropriate to mail the invitations before Thanksgiving? I usually send them out the day after Thanksgiving.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners appreciates your reluctance to start in on Christmas before Thanksgiving, but your busy friends need at least two weeks' advance notice if they are to schedule your party before filling up their calendars. Having been bombarded with Christmas-related advertising since Halloween, they are unlikely to accuse you of rushing things.