DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the workplace, I find myself feeling increasingly disconnected from fellow workers who seem to operate under the precise opposite of my beliefs on proper business behavior.
I've grown up with a rather exaggerated hourglass figure, and have learned to avoid tight clothes for aesthetic reasons. Finding flattering clothes can be a chore, but I've always thought it to be a necessary one. Conversely, they are obviously putting less and less effort into their clothing, as gaps between buttons and too-tight shirts that reveal every line of their undergarments are daily sights. Professional dress should be the norm, not the exception, but displaying it has made me seem the prude of the office. (And in my early 20s, at that!)
Yet again, simple logic doesn't seem to hold, for it's the women who are flashing their bodies that are the heavily religious and conservative ones. To be blunt, I am basically the sort that many of my fellow employees would label a social degenerate, if only by association. They know none of this, because I believe that one's religious, political and social affiliations are best kept to the personal sphere.
This brings me to my problem: because of my conservative dress, many of these women show no hesitation in coming up and spouting beliefs which I find perplexing at best and offensive at worst. Although it's difficult to keep a neutral face, I can usually deflect their attention onto a question about work.
However, this has continued to the point where I internally cringe whenever religion is brought up, and I fear I might start to cringe visibly in short order. I must continue to work with these women, and telling someone that their religious beliefs are offending you is certainly a way to ice over an office.
However, I fear my breaking point is fast approaching. How do I put a permanent lid on their "lighthearted" chats about which segments of society are hell-bound without being too subtle for these unprofessional professionals or being too blunt to allow for a decent workplace environment?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners would have thought it a tremendous advantage for a social degenerate (or a social degenerate once removed) to be thought a prude. Perhaps what you need is to seem more of a prude.
At the next approach of a lewdly-dressed proselytizer, try casting your eyes down and mumbling, "Oh, I can't talk about God. I'm sorry, I just can't."
After two or three reiterations of "I just can't," the suspicion will arise that your beliefs are as buttoned up as your clothes. Miss Manners is counting on their fleeing when it occurs to them that you might expect them to observe the same strict standard.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am curious what is the proper place for one to lay a paper (as opposed to a cloth) napkin when one is eating. I've often felt that paper napkins are to be placed in one's lap, while some believe it's OK to leave the paper napkin on the table while eating. I would like to have your insight into this so I can be sure that I am doing this properly.
GENTLE READER: Because etiquette cannot bear to think of paper napkins, it has no special rules for them. For example, it is probably not a good idea to wash and iron them, but there is no rule against it.
So Miss Manners is afraid that you are going to have to put the silly thing on your lap. A soiled paper napkin on the table would look even worse than a soiled cloth one.