DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are employed at a billing center for a national durable medical equipment supplier. Our manager has recently reinstituted the business-casual dress code. We had been quite casual (jeans) for a very long time.
Is business casual the allowance of "crocs" and allowing employees to be wrapped in blankets at their cubicles during the winter months? What are the acceptable and practiced rules of business casual dress in the employment world?
GENTLE READER: As far as Miss Manners can tell, the word "casual" has come to mean that all social decencies are optional.
People who refuse to consider others -- such as not showing up when they said they would or helping themselves to other people's lunch supplies -- will brag that they are just casual sorts of people. The implication is that anyone who objects is pompously citing an unimportant technicality.
So if you think winter was rough in your office (would turning up the heat have helped?), wait until summer. The casual folk especially enjoy trashing anyone's sense of proper dress.
While "business casual" was originally intended to eliminate ties and jackets, Miss Manners urges your manager to specify what he means and drop the word "casual" from his dress code memos. Otherwise, you can expect your colleagues to peal down amazingly when it gets hot out.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: For my graduation from graduate school, I do not want to order the invitations from the school-sponsored company. They are expensive and not very pretty.
Is it appropriate to either make my own invitations or use blank cards with a handwritten invitation to my graduation and graduation party?
Also, I truly do not want gifts, cash or otherwise, from my loved ones. My loved ones have generously supported me throughout my education with plenty of home-cooked meals, house-warming gifts when I first moved to the area and rides when I did not have a car.
I am planning to move shortly after graduation and do not need anything. Is there an appropriate way to convey this to them? It strikes me as rude to write, 'No Gifts Please' on the invitation. I also do not want to hurt their feelings by being rude!
GENTLE READER: Your instincts are excellent. Handwritten invitations are actually preferable to printed ones. (Even engraved wedding invitations are a practical concession to the difficulty of writing out so many invitations by hand.)
And you are right that a no-gifts statement only shows that one had one's mind on receiving stuff, which is likely but improper. Besides, Miss Manners has been horrified to hear that nowadays that is often interpreted to mean that the inviter wants money instead of objects.
But although a handwritten invitation can be ultra-formal, it can also be informal, depending on the wording. Downplaying the sense of occasion will, in this case, help one of your problems mitigate the other.
Something along the lines of "I'd love it if you would come to my graduation ceremony, and a little celebration afterward" does not scream "Major occasion! Presents expected!"