DEAR MISS MANNERS: I often attend political events where I am seated in a banquet-type room (and sometimes auditoriums), with tables very near one another. There are times that speeches are given, and multiple times people rise to their feet in applause. At times, it is excessive.
As a lady wearing a skirt and heels, it is often difficult to push my chair out without hitting someone nearby, or to teeter into a standing position while applauding multiple times in an evening. I feel by the time I have risen from my chair, it is time to sit again.
Is it proper for a lady to keep her seat and still applaud a speaker? At a rally, people were jumping to their feet multiple times, and although I was in agreement, I found it very difficult to rise multiple times and remain ladylike. I don't want to appear in opposition to the speaker, yet it's not always convenient nor easy to rise to my feet as everyone else does. This crowd is cognizant of manners, as I have witnessed the gentlemen rising as a lady leaves the table (which I love to see!).
GENTLE READER: Just because someone -- or everyone else -- stands up to clap, you are not obliged to do so. It just feels that way.
The trick is to applaud enthusiastically, so that it cannot be interpreted as disapproval of the person being honored. If you felt that way, you presumably wouldn't be there.
But under other conditions, it is possible to issue polite dissent during a standing ovation. Of course people who would have discomfort getting up need not rise. But there are also those of us who believe that automatic jumping up has cheapened the value of the ultimate audience sign of approval. Miss Manners has remained seated while clapping for opera performances that are very good but not extraordinary, which is what she believes should be the criterion for a standing ovation.