DEAR MISS MANNERS: In older films, one sees men shaking hands with women when they are introduced or when they meet casually.
How do you explain that now, men of all ages insist on kissing women on the cheek as a form of greeting? When and why did this custom develop?
GENTLE READER: Cheek kissing, previously relegated to intimate friends and relatives pre-World War II, started running rampant in the 1960s with the social revolution. Presumably, it was an attempt at ridding society of class distinctions. Unfortunately, those distinctions -- amongst acquaintances and in business situations -- only seem to apply to women, rarely men.
Miss Manners sincerely believes that a number of confusing and unwanted interactions could be avoided if we all agreed to keep our lips to ourselves, at least until some degree of intimacy is agreed upon. A second meeting would be a start.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: For our wedding, my fiance and I chose to include not only family, but also friends and co-workers. We come from different cultures (South Asian and Russian), and in mine, individuals are not generally given a plus-one unless they are engaged or married.
This is something we were in agreement about when inviting individuals from both sides. Invitations were sent out several months ago (it will be a destination wedding for many), and the deadline is nearing.
Certain individuals from my work who originally RSVP’d as “yes,” and who were single at the time, are asking if they can bring a plus-one as they are in new relationships. Other co-workers were only given plus-ones if they were engaged, married or in domestic partnerships.
It puts me in an awkward place to say no. Additionally, our wedding is a formal, black-tie affair, and costs approximately $250 a plate. I don’t want to be rude or make someone upset that they cannot bring a date, but the additional costs associated make it difficult. (I am also not sure if I want strangers at the wedding.) There are other co-workers who are single and who are coming, who also were not given plus-ones.
How do we handle this without hurt feelings or being rude? Some of these co-workers have never been to a South Asian wedding, and want to share the experience with their significant others.
GENTLE READER: Not wanting to have strangers at your wedding does not have to be a parenthetical. As a rule, it far outweighs the one that involves you balking at the cost of having them.
That couples must be in a long-term and/or established relationship in order to be invited is perfectly reasonable. In fact, when it comes to secondary guests at your wedding (such as children and pets), Miss Manners allows you to make any criterion that you like -- as long as it is universal. And if that rule goes on to produce new engagements, by forcing your guests to socialize, your co-workers may then thank you -- or blame you -- for the push in that direction.
(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.)