DEAR MISS MANNERS: As I was going through the closets of my house, I happened across my grandfather's old homburg hat, which had remained undisturbed in its hatbox for many years following his death. As it fit remarkably well and suited me excellently, I took to wearing it out and on special occasions as both an affectation and tribute to the grandfather I never knew.
What is the etiquette associated with a young woman wearing a man's style of hat? Does she follow the rules for ladies (which state that the hat is part of a woman's 'ensemble' and therefore should not be removed even indoors) or gentlemen (which state that the hat comes off inside, in the presence of a funeral procession, when the National Anthem is being played and in innumerable other circumstances?)
What about tipping my hat? Historically, women have never tipped their hats, but men were required to in any number of cases. I don't want to be rude, but I also don't want to cast myself in the role of a man. There seems to be no solid precedent for how to behave while in the other gender's clothing.
GENTLE READER: You will be relieved to hear that wearing a gentleman's hat (note: a baseball cap does not qualify as such) alters neither your gender nor your ladylike manners.
However unfairly, this latitude is not permitted to gentlemen, Miss Manners must point out. A gentleman who is wearing a lady's hat is presumed to be either a transvestite, in which case he employs ladies' manners when so dressed, or drunk, in which case he writes a letter of apology to his hostess.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of my co-workers will often stand next to me while I am taking a phone call and wait for me to finish so that she can speak with me. Although business related, I feel very uncomfortable with her listening to my every word and staring at me whilst I finish my business call.
If I look at her to acknowledge that she is waiting, she tries to whisper her message to me while I am still trying to take the business call. Then I end up not fully hearing either message. She can see that I am occupied and I feel that she should send me an e-mail or come back. The question she is waiting to ask me is usually of very low importance.
How do I handle this tactfully? I have tried ignoring her behavior until the client is off the phone, but she still tries to get my attention.
GENTLE READER: Do you have a swivel chair?
The polite "Go away; I'm busy" signal is a regretful smile with an optional shrug of the shoulders to indicate that you will be occupied for a while, so there is no point in waiting.
But you have informed Miss Manners that your co-worker waits anyway, and doesn't just wait quietly, but acts as if you were free to talk to her.
Here is where the swivel chair comes in: After having indicated your helplessness in responding while you are on the telephone, you can swivel around so that your back is toward the entrance, presuming that your colleague has done the right thing and left.