DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a U.S. government employee, I often take official delegations to foreign countries. While in these countries, my group sometimes hosts receptions where we pay for the food and drink and the meeting place.
I recently encountered a situation where the U.S. embassy in Country X attempted to dictate the dress for the reception as well as its duration. This was not a country with which I am unfamiliar, as we have hosted the same type of reception there for many years.
The embassy eventually dropped its attempts to control our reception, but I feel compelled to ask your counsel: Can the embassy do this? The invitees at the reception were a combination of local business people and government officials. I should also add that I told the embassy that they could invite some people if it would be to their advantage to do so.
Do the normal rules apply here, or are they suspended when we work overseas and with the government?
GENTLE READER: Dicate dress? Are we talking about a ban on flip-flops and T-shirts with anti-American slogans? Or a requirement that the ladies cover all but their eyes?
Probably neither, but Miss Manners knows better than to take a position on dress codes until she knows what they are and when they apply. She has received too many letters on the subject from teenagers who are indignant about the injury to their civil rights when they are not permitted to attend school displaying the body parts of which they are most proud.
Certainly a United States embassy can insist that people entering it not be dressed in such a way as to undermine the dignity of the venue. For that matter, so can any American restaurant or boardwalk souvenir shop that puts up a sign saying "No shirt, no shoes, no service."
But, of course, what specifically meets the criteria and what does not is subject to wide interpretation and, we hope, peaceful and polite negotiation. That you were able to have the code removed suggests that you took this option successfully.
The particular code you were originally given may well have been unreasonable. The mere existence of a dress code is not.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiance and I are both in our early 20s, eagerly awaiting our wedding date. We have made a decision to wait until our wedding night before "going all the way."
We both come from moral families that uphold traditional views on sex and marriage. Knowing my future in-laws' views on such matters, should they have the right to question our intentions or the physical part of our relationship? Is it really any of their business?
GENTLE READER: No, but they will anyway. Miss Manners recommends blushing, looking down and mumbling, "I'm sorry, but I was brought up never to mention such things." Tears and running from the room would help.
Your fiance will have a harder time, since they brought him up, but he can plead that discussing that would be a violation of the old-fashioned modesty that he treasures in you.