DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was escorting a lady friend along a sidewalk not long ago, and as we were chatting, I chanced to look down and saw that a dog had left his "calling card" on the sidewalk.
My companion's foot, already in mid-air, was a split-second from its, ah, "date with destiny." There was no time for a verbal warning, so I grabbed her by the shoulder and yanked her back -- rather roughly, I'm afraid, but had I been any gentler, her foot would probably have been soiled.
I know that it is normally quite improper for a gentleman to manhandle a lady so, but am I right that this case was an exception? (My companion thanked me for the service, so I'm assuming I behaved correctly.) I hope that this question will be as simple as it appears to be.
GENTLE READER: You mean there might be a subtext that Miss Manners missed? She hopes not, as the surface problem is quite exciting enough.
Etiquette is not so besotted with its own rules as to fail to provide exceptions for emergencies. So the only question here is whether the situation (surely a danger to the lady's shoe, rather than her foot) constituted an emergency. You thought it was, the lady thought it was, the dog recuses himself and Miss Manners raises no objection.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At my son's all-male high school, seniors are required to purchase tuxedos for use throughout the school's formal season (including, though not limited to, graduation and prom).
While I am delighted that he is encouraged to dress formally, I fear the school's selection is embarrassingly inappropriate. Not with the selection of the tuxedo; that I applaud. It is with the selection (read: requirement) of a winged collar with black bow tie.
While my son learned early (i.e., first grade) that ALL ties are to be hand tied, I an horrified at the thought of his learning from the school that one should wear a black bow tie with a white winged collar.
How best to gently encourage the use of a white spread collar with the selected bow tie, or to suggest the use of the even more formal white bow tie if the winged collar is required? Please help -- I cannot bear the thought of his earliest formal events being immortalized photographically in so seriously flawed a presentation. Thank you for you thoughts.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners' thoughts are with you. The black circle around the neck that is revealed by the raised winged collar strikes her as making the gentleman look as if he forgot to wash below the ears.
However, history is against us, she is sorry to say. The dinner jacket first appeared in America -- at Tuxedo Park -- in 1896, and it was not until a quarter of a century later that the pleated shirt with turned-down collar was invented to go with it. Meanwhile, gentlemen continued to wear their only dress shirts, which had winged collars.
You don't want to find yourself going up against a science teacher who brandishes the photograph of Albert Einstein wearing a black tie with a winged collar. However, you can make a forceful argument in terms of aesthetics and of the conventions of our time. A school that respects tradition enough to require formal dress should be receptive to the point that a gentleman's evening clothes should not be unusual or conspicuous.