DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in the second trimester of my second pregnancy, and the summer heat is affecting me terribly.
I have several old-fashioned folding ladies' fans, one of the standard balsa-wood type and one beautiful antique ivory that belonged to my great-grandmother. It seems to me that these would be great to keep around for a handy breeze whenever required, staving off dizzy spells and other unfortunate side effects of pregnancy.
Are there situations when they are not appropriate? They are not used much anymore, and though I have inherited a few I was not taught any rules for when they are and are not correctly used. I am assuming they are correctly used at evening occasions, but what about church services, weddings or even a trip to the grocery store?
GENTLE READER: There are unbelievably complicated rules about the use of fans, but these are not restrictions on the mere use of a fan. Before the blessing of air conditioning, fans were aflutter everywhere.
As Miss Manners recalls from, oh, about a 150 years ago, holding the fan to the heart signified "I love you" and drawing it through the hand signified "I hate you." Snapping it open and shut signified "Stop being so mean," and opening it to obscure half the face signified "Oops, my husband is watching."
Or something like that.
Perhaps fortunately, this has become a forgotten language. You are welcome to use your fans anywhere to signify "I'm pregnant and the heat is getting to me."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I enjoy participating on a local recreational sports team, both for exercise and for social reasons. But I am not what you might call a highly competitive person.
I am becoming increasingly frustrated, though, with one of the members of my team. She frequently remarks about how poorly she is doing, and whenever she makes a mistake, she says something to the effect of, "I bet you all really hate being on a team with me, don't you?"
She is always smiling and laughing as she makes these remarks, so I understand that she probably believes that she is being self-deprecating, but the attitude is disheartening.
Also, when she does something well, she tends to make a scene (jumping up and down, laughing delightedly, congratulating herself, etc.). This is rather embarrassing, and several members of other teams have complained to us when she is out of earshot. I am a firm believer in "It's only a game," but my teammate is beginning to hamper my enjoyment of the game.
GENTLE READER: Issuing apologies and displaying modesty are approved and sometimes mandated by etiquette -- right up until the point where everyone is sick of hearing them. That's when the targets must protest.
Of course, a protest is what your teammate is trying to provoke. But Miss Manners suspects that a simple, "Don't worry, you're doing great" would only encourage her to keep repeating the exchange. You -- or even better, the team captain -- should reply, "Your playing is all right, but you should work on getting used to the fact that everyone has better days and worse days.
We don't crow when it goes well, and we don't apologize when it doesn't."