DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a discussion with a lady who is to be married to a cousin of mine. She said that black tie means you must wear a bow tie.
I told her that in different cultures that was not the case. I did not mean different countries, which is what she thought at first. I meant if you live in New York, Dallas, San Fran, Small Town, Large Town, High Society, Middle Class, Rich, or Poor that the standards for a Black Tie are different.
I did my research and found that standard on a few Web sites means you must wear a bow tie. However I still feel very upset at her, due to the tone she used and the fact that even with the Web sites I found, I still feel if you are in a poor group of people Black Tie would mean something different. I know it would be nice to have these things spelled out.
However, I have lived in different parts of the country. In the Boston area you can ask for a Tonic and they will assume you mean a Coke, Pepsi or some other carbonated drink. In Wichita, Kan., you could simply ask for a pop and it would mean the same. Different words and different understanding of words show up in different groups of people.
I had ideas on what a wedding should include when I married and my wife had different ideas. Some people assume all weddings have dancing, some assume all weddings have a sit-down meal after the wedding. However, that all depends on where you live and what your family's ideas are about these things.
I am not sure what I am asking other than I am upset and she will not know I am upset unless she invites me to a black tie party or wedding. I will not be getting a tux unless I am part of the wedding party. I feel that the cost of a tux is to much just to go to the party or wedding.
GENTLE READER: It never fails to astonish Miss Manners how hysterical some gentlemen become when asked to dress up. Here you found that your hypothesis about regional variation was wrong, and yet you won't give up. And you are raring to take it out on your cousin's bride.
Unless a gentleman is accepting an Academy Award, he is not supposed to make himself conspicuous by deviating from the standard -- and it is standard, whatever you say -- style of the occasion. Ladies have considerably more leeway (and have been known to abuse it). The advantages are that gentlemen don't have to fuss over what to wear -- and that they can easily rent evening clothes.
If this is too much of a sacrifice for you don't go to your cousin's wedding. But don't take it out on his bride.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the correct way to say, "I accept your apology, even though I still think what you did was unacceptable"?
GENTLE READER: "I appreciate your saying that."
This is the noncommittal equivalent of that noncommittal apology so favored by politicians, "I'm sorry if you took offense."