DEAR MISS MANNERS: How, if ever, should a lady offer her seat to a gentleman on public transportation? I continue to be troubled by this scenario:
On a subway car, there are two facing rows of three seats. One of these seats is the only unoccupied one in the car. The three seats across from it are occupied by Teenage Girl, Teenage Girl's large handbag and Female Student.
Enter two passengers, whom we will call Older Lady and Older Gentleman. They are traveling together. Older Gentleman assists Older Lady to the unoccupied seat and himself stands next to it.
Female Student is embarrassed to remain seated in the standing presence of one who is so obviously her senior, but does not wish to imply that he looks as if young ladies should immediately surrender their seats to him lest he should keel over from sheer senescence.
Female Student rises anyway and offers Older Gentleman her seat, saying loudly enough for Teenage Girl to hear, "If you'd like to sit together." Teenage Girl, who is evidently easygoing enough to pretend not to notice Female Student's rudeness in offering a seat that so obviously is not hers, quickly removes the handbag, leaving two free seats.
Older Lady and Older Gentleman accept the seats, but Older Gentleman appears somewhat annoyed.
Worried that she has behaved offensively, Female Student ponders the problem with vague embarrassment. Was she in fact correct? Should she have taken Teenage Girl's lead and done nothing? She could also have risen out of sheer youthful caprice and pulled out some slim volume of poetry to illustrate her total lack of interest in the seat's fate. But would he have fallen for such a dramatization?
She later asks her (of course) Completely Correct Father what he thinks she should have done and receives a confusing answer about how interesting it is to live in a time when somebody might ask such a question. As a daughter older than 12, she has been insolent enough to decide that he simply doesn't know.
GENTLE READER: He is not the only clueless gentleman in this scenario.
Miss Manners appreciates your delicacy in worrying about what you assume to be Older Gentleman's shame about his age and the possibility that his illusion of appearing youthful would be shattered by your courtesy.
You may be mistaken, of course. Perhaps he had a personal reason to be miffed at Older Lady.
But Miss Manners has little sympathy for those who reject courtesies to prove that they are young or, in the case of ladies, strong. They have nearly succeeded in stamping out the practice of offering seats to the pregnant, the disabled, the elderly and others who need them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a bridal shower, the two women on my right asked my opinion about placing the gift giver's address on the back of the bridal shower card. They felt it was unnecessary and that thank-yous are not necessary.
I was surprised. As a former family and consumer sciences instructor, my junior high classes practiced writing appropriate thank-yous.
Am I out of touch? Are thank-yous unnecessary?
GENTLE READER: Are presents necessary? For that matter, are bridal showers necessary?
No, they aren't. But most people like to receive presents, and those who give like to feel that they are appreciated. Cut off the graciousness on one side of this equation, and the other side will go, too. Miss Manners hears from many who have given generous shower presents, only to decide not to give wedding presents to ungrateful brides.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)