DEAR MISS MANNERS: Could you please tell me, and all TV women -- should they sit with their legs crossed at the knee?
I was taught to sit with my legs together and just crossed at the ankle. My daughter is trying to have my granddaughter not cross her legs, but she sees all these TV women sitting that way, which is no help.
GENTLE READER: Which TV women? The ones who appear under their own identities for a somewhat serious reason (noted to exclude reality shows), or actresses and saleswomen?
You will be surprised at which of these Miss Manners will join you in criticizing for their posture.
Traditionally, ladies were taught to cross their ankles on the grounds that it was unladylike to cross their knees. That this gesture made something of an awkward tent of long skirts may have had something do with the lesson.
The biggest change now is that being ladylike is no longer a popular female goal. But there have also been changes in fashion that supply new reasons for the old rule.
Crossed knees in short skirts are distracting, if not actually revealing. Even those who disdain looking ladylike want to be taken seriously when they are making public appearances. For that reason, many wear trousers. It seems reasonable and fair that they could then assume the masculine posture of crossed legs.
But gentlemen (who tend not to be insulted if they are considered gentlemanly) do not cross their knees; at most, they rest one ankle on the other knee. It doesn't look good, which is why they almost never do this in public. And it looks even worse for a lady, especially when it includes a high heel pointed perilously close to the person at her side.
So Miss Manners would advise such ladies to follow the old rule simply because it is less distracting and looks more professional.
For actresses, whether they are playing roles or pitching products, the situation is different. Their profession is being distracting and may well require calling attention to their legs.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My cousin is getting married quite soon, and between her and her fiance, they don't need any household goods. They would prefer cash so it can be used to meet the needs that guests and their gifts could not otherwise fulfill, but I was careful to tell my cousin it's still considered tacky to ask for cash when she requested advice.
In this day and age of merging households with no need of housewares and no room for knickknacks, is there any way to ask for money without sounding like a mannerless money-grubber with hands outstretched for donations?
GENTLE READER: No.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The abbreviated version of my name is one that has become popular as a name for pets. How I wish people would return to Rover and Fluffy.
I have found myself blushing and embarrassed when I am introduced to someone and they say, "That's my dog's name!" They often wait for me to reply.
And I struggle terribly. Please help. And I would like to add that I have a perfectly nice name.
GENTLE READER: "Really?" Miss Manners would say deadpan, if she were in your place. "It's a family name. I suppose we're related."
(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.)