DEAR MISS MANNERS: I wish to know how soon one can publicly date after the sudden death of their spouse.
My husband died 3-1/2 months ago and, while I grieve, I also feel relief, as he was a verbally abusive man who I was not sure I loved anymore. I had been unhappy in our marriage for quite a while. He died suddenly of a massive heart attack. We both worked at the same place and I took a six-week LOA to sort out many loose threads left hanging.
I have come to the conclusion that I still have a lot of life to live and a lot of love to give. We were married almost 21 years. He was 52 and I am 42. I have two sons, ages 16 and 11. I have met someone, but am afraid to date him in public as I feel people will be scandalized at the soon-ness of it all. Please guide me with proper etiquette for a recent widow.
GENTLE READER: Fortunately for you, nobody knows anymore what constitutes a date. Miss Manners realizes how this is bewildering to people who cannot figure out whether they are on them, but it works in your favor.
The respectful period for a widow to refrain from allowing herself to be publicly courted is a year, the quality of the marriage aside. And before you shriek at Miss Manners for being Victorian, she will remind you that Victorian periods of mourning were much longer -- and that she is going to help you get out of observing this, if only you will be patient with her.
What has changed more radically than mourning customs are courtship customs. It is no longer assumed that romance is the only possible reason that ladies and gentlemen would want to spend any time together. The possibility of friendship as an end is admitted, even though friendships sometimes take a romantic turn.
As long as you are careful to identify this gentleman as a friend -- which is also conveniently the term for someone with whom you do not yet have a romance -- you should not be criticized for being seen with him in public. Miss Manners trusts that you would behave yourself in any case.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When staying in a hotel, what is the proper attire for greeting a person delivering a room-ordered meal?
I generally order breakfast during early morning, and several times have opened the doors in my pajamas. Also, when staying in hotels I often avail myself of the exercise facilities. I wear exercise pants and a top covering me completely, except for the arms and the neck, but am not sure if that is appropriate, especially when I am rather dewy on the way back to my room. I stay away from the lobby and make my way to my room as hastily as possible, but do not know if I should slink to the staircase and hide in the shadows instead.
GENTLE READER: The principle here is that fine old Victorian adage: Don't scare the horses in the streets. Miss Manners does not consider this any the less applicable because you are indoors and room service waiters do not scare easily, having seen it all. Wearing a cover-up over your pajamas and dewiness is still a courtesy.