DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in an apartment building that has a security door and intercom system on the main floor. When a date comes to pick me up, should he come all the way up to my unit or should he remain in the vestibule until I come down? Or should I buzz him into the lobby and say that I will be right down?
Does the answer vary depending upon how many dates I've had with him?
GENTLE READER: Hold on. The question of how many dates it should be before he goes to your apartment surely has to do with the other end of the date. And Miss Manners prefers not to be involved in that.
A gentleman picks up a lady at her front door, but you may, if you wish, define this as the front door of the building. Having him come up suggests that some form of hospitality will be offered, and Miss Manners has already excused herself from deciding that.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I will be going to a formal dinner party soon. It has been years since I have been to one, and I am not sure what utensils to use. Can you please help me?
GENTLE READER: Only if you promise not to tell anyone how easy it is. That would ruin etiquette's reputation as a mysterious, if not sinister, rite, unfathomable to -- well, to practically every except Miss Manners.
A properly set table, formal or informal, provides diners with the exact tools, neither more nor less, that they need to eat the meal being served, arranged in an outside-to-inside pattern. And that's it.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I need some advice on the privacy of e-mails. I recently had a situation where I wrote an e-mail to a friend discussing some sensitive matter. This friend forwarded my email to somebody else in our circle, which in turn created a very unpleasant situation. The obvious solution is not to put private matters in e-mails, but due to a very irregular work schedule and a difference in time zones finding a good time to call can be a challenge.
How do I communicate that I consider an e-mail sent to a single recipient as private as a face-to-face conversation, phone call or letter?
GENTLE READER: By delivering confidences in person or by telephone. Then, when people repeat what you have said, at least you can deny it.
Miss Manners is sorry to deprive you of writing your friends on office time. But people really must learn that e-mail, convenient as it is for so many purposes, is not a proper means to communicate things that you do not want repeated. Nor, for that matter, are letters. In pre-e-mail days, one was always hearing about letters falling "into the wrong hands," either because someone snooped or the recipient passed them around.
The standard advice then was, "Don't put it in writing unless you want everyone to know." This applies even more to e-mail. Not only are snooping and forwarding both easier, but a third possibility -- that of your hitting the wrong button and circulating it around your workplace -- is only too likely.