DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am on the clergy staff of the local cathedral parish. At our annual Mardi Gras party, I had the honor of being elected king. The dean was elected queen.
We soon found ourselves dressed in royal drag and it was all great fun -- until time came for the "first dance." As so often happens when two men are expected to polka together on the spur of the moment, we began dancing before deciding who was to lead, and neither of us had any experience following.
A most unedifying spectacle ensued. In order to avert complete disaster, I decided to defer to the dean and the situation stabilized. Mostly.
As you have no doubt gathered, the congregation is very naughty and I am already getting alarming vibrations about next Mardi Gras. How should I handle the inevitable? It seems to me that allowing the dean lead was an un-Mardi Gras thing to do. But he was also the queen, and letting her lead would be in keeping with the spirit of the day. In order to set correct precedent for the many years to come, I need to know: Should I defer to the Dean, or should I assert my kingly authority and bring the queen to (high) heel?
GENTLE READER: It is Lent now. Aren't you supposed to be concentrating on something other than how soon you can get back into Carnival mode?
However, to answer your question: The theatrical rule is to keep in character, in which case the king leads the queen. However, Miss Manners feels that you actually did better than that. You deferred to the wishes of your congregation, who set this up for the fun of watching you both making fools of yourselves.
Now please see if you can keep calm until next year.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: About once a month I attend a professional luncheon at a local luxury hotel. When we arrive at our tables, the desserts are already on the tables at the 12 o'clock position above the salad plates. The servers clear the salad plates after we have finished that course and then serve the lunch plates. However, 95 percent of the time, the servers do not ever clear the lunch plates, leaving me with a dilemma as to how to eat the dessert. Some people switch the positions of their lunch plates and their dessert plates, but there is not enough room in the center of the table for everyone to do that. Some people stretch across their lunch plates to access their dessert plates still in the middle of the table, and others stack their dessert plates on top of their used lunch plates.
None of these seems quite right to me. What is one to do in such a situation if one does want to enjoy the dessert?
GENTLE READER: Find a hotel with decent service?
Yes, Miss Manners knows. You (or your employer) will argue that it costs more, just as the hotel argues that it costs more to hire enough waiters. And thus sub-minimum service is perpetuated under the name of luxury.
Under such conditions, the hapless diner must improvise, which is what your colleagues are doing. Of course, none of the methods seems "right." The situation itself is wrong.