DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I tell my second cousin (the mother of the groom) that she needs to wear a bra on the wedding day? The bride has come to me and asked me to ask her future mother-in-law to wear one. She never wears one, ever, and it is obvious that she does not.
Should I bring one with me to the wedding and at least make her put it on for photos? I don't want to hurt her feelings and I do want to help out the poor bride. What do I do? Should I be the one to do this? Her son refuses.
GENTLE READER: The spectacle of you dangling a brassiere at the wedding and ordering the bridegroom's mother to go put it on is so delicious that Miss Manners hates to have to kill it. But no, it is not a good idea.
If you are that lady's close friend, as well as her second cousin, perhaps you could ask her, well in advance, to model her dress for you. Then you could say, after the obligatory encouraging compliments, "but I think it's meant to be worn with a bra -- want me to get you one?"
Otherwise, you might consider that there is a reason that the son, who presumably knows her temperament, refuses to have anything to do with the matter. The help you can give is to say to the bride: "Honey, that's just the way she is, and she is going to be your mother-in-law, so you might as well accept her as she is. Anyway, no one is going to be looking at her. They'll all be looking at you."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Could you possibly explain why people don't return phone calls?
When I call with a purpose in mind and ask that they please return my call, I expect an answer. But too often this is not the case. I am not calling just to chitchat; I'm seeking a specific answer. At times I will make a second call with the same result. I should note that I am not online yet.
When asked, "Did you get my recent phone call?" people will just brush it off with a lame, "Oh, I just forgot." How would you respond?
GENTLE READER: By asking how -- in what form -- one could get a prompt response from that person, if that were necessary.
Admittedly, Miss Manners would ask this somewhat coldly, as the response you describe suggests that these people did actually get your telephone messages.
But she is also aware that we are in a peculiar transitional period, when many people have all but abandoned telephoning, even though they carry telephones with them everywhere. They use its other functions to communicate in writing. These are less intrusive and more flexible about time.
When you say you are not online "yet," you are aware that it is necessary -- not, Miss Manners assures you, because you should placate people who ignored messages they received, but simply because it will be easier for you to reach people and get answers.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)