DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am thinking of purchasing a diamond ring. What are the etiquette rules as to the hand and finger on which I wear the ring? And is it an etiquette faux pas to buy myself a ring that is generally associated with engagement and marriage?
I love my boyfriend dearly but we have no plans to become engaged or marry, and I don't want a jewelry purchase to prompt others to pry into our relationship.
GENTLE READER: Is a sparkle on the hand worth having an elephant following you around?
Miss Manners acknowledges that there are times when a diamond ring is just a piece of jewelry, and a lady can buy one for herself without exciting any more comment than an occasional compliment. Worn on the right hand, it should not be mistaken for an engagement ring.
But you are in love and not planning to marry. Do you think for one moment that everyone you know will refrain from zeroing in on your diamond ring and asking when the wedding will be? (No doubt they do already, the nosy things, but this will reopen the subject.) And if you deny it, they will assume you are equivocating.
Furthermore, the elephant will show up when you and the gentlemen think you are alone. Even if you manage to refrain from asking him how he likes it, the thought will occur to him that it is intended as a reproach.
So the answer is that buying yourself a diamond ring is not an etiquette faux pas, except in that it will encourage nervousness in at least one person and nosiness in many others. Perhaps a more attractive answer would be rubies.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I attended a breakfast party at the end of Yom Kippur, I came late because I wanted to wait until services were completely over -- three stars in the sky. Many of the other guests had come earlier and had eaten.
I had fasted and made a plate for myself and sat down at a table consisting of people I knew, who had already eaten -- and didn't fast in the first place. I was starving. I was just about to take a bite out of my lox, bagel and cream cheese, when someone at the table asked me a question; "What happened at the Smith's party you were at last week?"
It's not the kind of question you can answer with a few words, and I was really, really hungry. I answered their question and the subsequent questions, but finally said, "Just let me take a bite of this delicious bagel." What should I have done?
GENTLE READER: Taken a bite of that delicious bagel. Under special circumstances, the conventional signal for "Just a minute, my mouth is full" (forefinger raised, face composed in a regretful smile) can be invoked in anticipation of the fact. Considering the occasion, Miss Manners would expect your questioners to understand, but you could take the precaution of murmuring, "Let me just break my fast" on the way to your bagel.