Dear Miss Manners: I was invited to a dinner party hosted by my law school professor. It was on a Thursday evening, and the invitation said dress was casual. I and other students wore jeans and casual shirts.
I overheard the host discussing our outfits as uncouth and saying we should have worn "business casual" attire.
Was I wrong for dressing casually? Should I have interpreted dinner party "casual" to mean business attire?
Gentle reader: Has the factor of context never come up in your law classes? Or the question of what the understanding of a reasonable person would be?
Actually, nobody knows the meaning of "casual." As far as Miss Manners can tell — and she is as reasonable as one can reasonably be — it merely tells people that they don't have to make any effort they don't feel like making. So some feel like making the effort to look polished, and some don't feel like making much of an effort, if any. Certainly, a reasonable student would interpret "casual" as meaning jeans.
But your professor seems to have trouble understanding context. Correcting students when they are taking his courses is his job. Disparaging his guests when he has invited them to a party is rude.
Dear Miss Manners: One sends out an RSVP invitation with a specific deadline, and then, because of poor response, the hosts want to cancel. Obviously the regrets do not need to be notified. Those accepting the invitation should be notified.
A topic of debate within my household: Is the host under any obligation to notify those who did not respond?
Gentle reader: Your implicit frustration with those who do not respond to invitations would normally find a sympathetic listener in Miss Manners.
But she finds herself wondering instead about the "poor response" you cite in justification of revoking an invitation that has been both issued and, in some cases, accepted. To these people, the host owes an apology, an explanation and, ideally, a replacement invitation.
Given how many people are in the habit of attending events to which they did not respond, it would be wise to warn the nonresponders as well, lest they appear on your doorstep expecting to be fed. In fact, you do not need to offer to feed them ever again.
Dear Miss Manners: My son is proposing tonight. I want to send her flowers tomorrow. What should the card say?
Gentle reader: "I knew about this before you did and preapproved you"?
Not a good idea. Miss Manners certainly favors welcoming a bride into the family but recommends allowing the couple to break the news to you together first.
Dear Miss Manners: My younger brother is half-African American. His fair wife is Anglo-Irish. They have three small sons, all blond and blue-eyed.
My brother takes them out Saturday mornings so his wife can sleep in, and as no good deed goes unpunished, on these outings he is often accosted by strangers demanding to know the parentage of the children and denying they could possibly be his. He is usually quite patient and good-natured, but occasionally the queries become vehemently accusatory, as if he is suspected of abducting the wee laddies and nefariously nannying them in the coffeehouse, grocery store or park.
One never wishes to be rude, and so one turns to Miss Manners, to seek an effective rebuff.
Gentle reader: If these inquiries are becoming attacks, your brother would be more than justified to say, "I'm sorry, but you are upsetting my children" as he changes seats or hurries the little ones off in another direction. This should make it obvious that it is the accuser, and not he, who is the real threat to his children's well-being.
As a side note, Miss Manners can't help but caution you against the mindset that refers to a fatherly outing as a "good deed." A parent does not baby-sit his own children, but one who thinks he does could well lead others to suspicions of his being a stranger to them.
Dear Miss Manners: How would one interpret an invitation that states, "This is an adult-oriented event. Chaperoned children are welcome"?
Gentle reader: "We really don't want children at the party, but if you bring them anyway, they'd better not be loud or break anything."
To send a question to the Miss Manners team of Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin, go to missmanners.comor write them c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.Copyright © 2015, CT Now