DEAR MISS MANNERS: It is October and 88 degrees outside here today. I wore a summer dress and white dressy sandals to work. (This is perfectly fine attire at my office.)
A woman I work with made the comment that she wouldn't have the audacity to wear white shoes after Labor Day. She has made a comment like this to me before along with the comment that boys should not wear white dress shoes.
I have heard two different reasons for the "only wear white shoes between Memorial and Labor Day rule": 1) that it was initiated in the 1950s as a way to intimidate and differentiate people of "lower" class that may or may not know all the etiquette rules, and 2) it was started for practicality. (White shoes reflect sunlight and don't warm the feet like black shoes would.)
Whatever the reason for the beginning of the rule, is this rule still in effect? Am I supposed to invest in an after-Labor Day summer wardrobe? As for male children not wearing white dress shoes, I have no idea where this rule came from. The comment was made while looking at a picture of my nephews in their Easter Sunday clothes.
GENTLE READER: Unseasonable heat brings out the worst in everyone. Your colleague should not be criticizing your clothes, you should not be equivocating (if you have no other shoes to wear except white sandals, what will you do when it snows?) and even cool Miss Manners is feeling snappish. She always does when people suggest that etiquette, the great equalizer because it requires everyone to be treated with respect, is really a secret code by which the rich sneer at the poor.
Customs sometimes develop for practical reasons. You can probably guess why it is not a good idea to put little boys into white shoes. And a change to white just looks cooler in summer.
But beyond that is the variety and harmony of recognizing the natural cycles of the seasons and the sun. When people no longer recognize the difference between summer and fall, or between night and day, no wonder the temperature gets confused.
So yes, the white-shoes rule is still in effect.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I often have lunch at home together, each fixing our own meal. Sometimes it takes me longer to get my lunch ready, and my husband will sit there at the table with his lunch in front of him, waiting for me to join him.
I tell him "Please go ahead," but he refuses, saying that it is bad manners for him to start eating without ?me. I feel that it is fine for him to start without me if I say so. ?Who's right?
What about when we have guests and I'm still finishing up in the kitchen but all the food has been served? Is it all right for me to tell my guests to go ahead and start eating?
GENTLE READER: Your etiquette problem is that your husband treats you with too much courtesy and wants to enjoy your company at lunch? Is Miss Manners missing something here?
Sharing meals is an important ritual. While it is true that others should be urged to begin when their food would get cold waiting, this should be an exceptional circumstance. Miss Manners urges you to organize your food preparation so that you can eat with your husband and your guests.