DEAR MISS MANNERS: Someone has put up signs in all of our (unisex) bathrooms at work, imploring men to put down the toilet seat when they leave. As I was leaving a bathroom, a woman even stopped me in the hall to say, with annoyance, “You didn’t put down the seat.”
I am perplexed by this demand. When I come into a bathroom, I look to see if the seat is down and, if it is, put it up. When a woman comes in, shouldn’t she likewise look to see if it’s up and, if it is, put it down? Isn’t this demand a one-way street of the sort that etiquette eschews? (By its logic, I could equally demand that when a woman puts the seat down, she should subsequently put it back up. Which I wouldn’t.) What say you?
GENTLE READER: It is a social construct generally accepted that a toilet in its neutral and ready state has its seat down. The fact that this configuration favors one gender over the other is less important, Miss Manners believes, than that it is more conducive to keeping its passengers from falling in.
Your argument that this is a form of sexism is not likely to go over well, Miss Manners warns you. She does agree that your colleague should not have chastised you, but then again, having resorted to posting signs that you are defiantly ignoring, she seemingly had no choice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: This is the first birthday in 10 years my ex and I will not be together. Should I send a birthday card?
GENTLE READER: Only if the benefits of doing so outweigh the negatives.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How should a new mother respond to overly excited visitors who do not ask permission to hold the baby, and are not careful when doing so? I have just welcomed my third little one, and still have not quite figured this out.
I have certain in-laws that I know will immediately grab the baby and hold him up high in the air, then pass him off to their children, who will fight over who gets to hold him. It has even developed into a tug of war in the past, when my other two were babies, and I was always extremely nervous that they would be dropped.
I could rely on my daughter to start screaming after a few minutes, and then I could rescue her with a made-up excuse, “Oh, she must be hungry!” My son was a sturdy, easygoing baby, and he (and I) put up with it better.
This new babe is extremely small and fragile after a hard labor. I am getting very nervous about the visit. How can I politely head off the baby-grabbing?
GENTLE READER: “I am afraid that this one is a bit delicate and can get fussy, so I am going to hold on to her for now. When she’s bigger and sturdier, I will happily pass her around for gentle hugs and kisses.” The subtle threat of these visitors’ wayward grabs inducing crying and tantrums will likely deter them. If not, they will have been properly forewarned of the consequences.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)