DEAR MISS MANNERS: What's the correct way for a man to choose or change dance partners without making others feel bad?
I've been going to a social dance club. I normally show up without a date, as do several other men and women. I'm there just for an evening's diversion.
I don't want anyone to feel left out. How do I ask one woman to dance without making the woman next to her feel like lesser goods? Is there a polite way to stop dancing with a current partner so I can ask a woman who's been left sitting? I've gotten to know some of the women who are regulars, but others are strangers to me.
GENTLE READER: A gentleman should never leave a lady stranded on or near a dance floor -- a rule that has led to desperate signals in the attempt to palm off a dance partner with whom he does not wish to continue.
So if no one leaps over to take her off his hands, he finishes the dance, thanks the lady and escorts her back to join others on the sidelines, where he found her. Similarly, he does not whisk a lady to the dance floor if she is with only one other lady, who would then be stranded (which is why ladies should not stand around in pairs). But if he must, he should say to the remaining lady, "And may I engage you for the next dance?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please address the proper use of the chargers that are so popular today. Everyone seems to have a different idea.
Is it put on the table and left there throughout the meal, removing the salad plate and replacing it with the dinner plate, etc.; or is the dinner plate put on the charger and salad plate put on top of it? One friend says she's so glad to use it because she doesn't have to use a place mat.
GENTLE READER: Is she going to put the food on the tabletop when it is removed? Or will that stack of dishes, one on top of the other, fall over first?
The charger, or place plate ("charger" sounds too aggressive for Miss Manners), is set at each place at the start of the meal, and a soup plate or other smaller first-course plate may be set on it. However, it must then be removed and replaced by the dinner plate. It is not allowed to stay for the entire meal.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is very unusual -- he likes to do the thank you notes, birthdays, etc. He probably sends over 500 notes a year.
Recently, he sent a mutual friend of ours a sympathy card, for her brother, whom we did not know -- and now she is put out with me for the fact that I did not sign it also. Isn't his signature adequate to suffice?
GENTLE READER: His signature, yes. Only one person can write, and therefore should sign, a letter. But does he not know to include you in the text, as in "Imogene and I were so sorry to hear..."?
Miss Manners gives him great credit for doing a noble job, one that was once the sole burden of wives. If that disgruntled and ungrateful recipient objects merely because he is the family letter-writer, do not let it trouble you.