Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

The White Shoe Rule, Revisited

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother, sister and I find ourselves in disagreement. I hope you can help.

My mother and sister claim that one can wear white shoes from Easter until Labor Day. I agree with them on Labor Day signifying the end of white shoe season, but I thought one should not wear white shoes until Memorial Day.

Please advise us on when we can properly be seen in our white sandals. We are all devoted readers, and one word from you will settle the matter.

GENTLE READER: If only.

No rule enrages Miss Manners’ Gentle Readers as much as the ban against wearing white shoes (unless you are a baby, a bride, or playing tennis) between Memorial Day (not Easter) and Labor Day. In tones of high indignation, they carry on about weather conditions and wardrobe demands. Fashion leaders love to cheer on rule-breakers -- as if anyone actually learned any rules before breaking them.

Then they move on to attack etiquette itself. Such a rule is arbitrary, they point out. Of course it’s arbitrary. So is whether you drive on the right or left side of the road, but you should do what is expected.

To do away with rules would disappoint both people who enjoy order and respect ritual and the rule-breakers. Additionally, for many who have lived where there is little change in temperature all year, it is comforting to mark the change of seasons anyway.

The advantage of the white shoe rule is that hardly anyone notices any disobedience. But thank you for maintaining it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At Easter, my family enjoys dyeing eggs. Since I had my daughter, I step back and let her have all the fun of dyeing while I watch.

When we gather at my parents’ house, my dad sets up the egg-dye cups and brings them to the table. There are generally 18 or 20 cups. My (36-year-old) sister then proceeds to place eggs into at least 15 of them, generally leaving my child with yellow and orange, and that’s all.

She then proceeds to tell my 8-year-old that she is being rude because she wants to dye a purple egg. She orders her to wait, telling her it’s not nice to want to use all the dye for herself, and then says she’s sick of hearing the child complain.

My dad is a great sport about it, having made another batch of dye for my daughter. But is it appropriate for an adult to tell a child that they need to be faster to get eggs into the dye?

GENTLE READER: While children should have precedence at such holiday play, someone should tell your sister that acting childish doesn’t count. Miss Manners nominates your father.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I innocently say to my husband, “You’ll have to show me how to do something tomorrow,” he gets upset and answers, “I don’t HAVE to do anything.” He feels I am demanding he do something. What is your take on this?

GENTLE READER: That you should learn to say “please.”

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)