DEAR MISS MANNERS: Have I missed some change in the culture of taste and decorum in the last few years?
When we leave work, the security checkpoint requires placing items on a table before going through the magnameter. Often this is just for ease with such things as keys, cigarettes, newspapers, food and the like being placed on the table.
That was, until the other day. One of the ladies also leaving put something down that caused me to do a double take. It was a box of tampons. Not in a bag, or peeking out of a purse, flat on the table like a pack of cigarettes. I guess that takes the mystery out of her product choice.
Did I miss something here? I thought there was a level of decorum still in play despite celebrity disrobing, marriage disposal by politicians and alternate uses of golf clubs.
Or is this the new Bold Age, whereby anything goes, along as you do it in public? I thought on some things the mark had not moved. Could I be wrong?
GENTLE READER: Uh, how do you like the new airport body scanner?
Miss Manners also regrets the passing of modesty, but she makes a distinction among that which is sacrificed to apparent necessity, that which is surrendered voluntarily, and that which is exposed against one's wishes.
If by disrobing, you mean appearing in public scantily dressed (or let us say more scantily dressed than is now customary), that is usually, although not always, voluntary. So it counts as immodest unless you are in the fashion business. But surely you would not condemn a patient who is trying to make it down the clinic corridor in a hospital gown without being recognized.
The revelation of political and celebrity marriage troubles is usually against the will of the participants. But leaving aside the question of how unpalatable the details may be, ordinary citizens in droves are only too eager to reveal their formerly private lives -- on the Internet or television, if possible, and if not, by cornering anyone they can trap. Additionally, much grooming is now done in public, from the salons with picture windows to those who brush their teeth on public transportation.
Miss Manners joins you in deploring all this. But now let us return to your colleague who is leaving work. Perhaps she has been told to empty everything in her purse, or perhaps she forgot what besides shampoo was in her bag from the drugstore. Or perhaps she expects you to be tending to your own belongings rather than peering at hers any more than if you had been in line behind her when she bought them.
In any case, there are enough blatant examples of flagrant immodesty around without bothering this poor lady who is just trying to get home from work.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Do you think it's appropriate for a guest at a funeral to comment negatively to the family afterwards? I think it is insensitive, and I wonder what their motives are.
GENTLE READER: You don't mean, "It is terrible to lose him," do you?
Miss Manners supposes not. She realizes that everyone nowadays fancies himself a critic, but no, it is not a comfort to the bereaved to be told that the funeral got a thumbs-down rating.