Share this article

print logo

Miss Manners: Acting gallant can be a cliffhanger

Dear Miss Manners: During our adventure of driving up Pikes Peak in Colorado, my girlfriend and I stopped to admire the view, and she wandered up the road to take some pictures. I joined her, and as we returned to our vehicle, there was a steep, quarter-mile drop on one side. The other side was the road, where there wasn’t a great deal of traffic. I considered the drop-off to be the greater hazard, so I walked on that side. Was that the correct, gallant decision?

Gentle Reader: Indeed. Just as a gentleman precedes a lady down a staircase, so that if she trips she will have something soft on which to land, a gentleman should walk on the cliff side.

Previously married – and greedy

Dear Miss Manners: I am engaged, but have been married before. My financé has been married twice. How do we let people know that we would appreciate gift cards instead of gifts at our reception? We have three of everything.

Gentle Reader: If you have three of everything, why not think of sharing with those who have little, instead of plotting to have others give you even more? By the way, the word is “fiancé,” not “financé.” Or maybe, in this case, it is.

Doubt over being a barefoot hostess

Dear Miss Manners: Is it OK to host an informal dinner while in bare feet? I walk around my home in bare feet all the time, but I wonder if it is proper when guests come over. I do not know if it is perceived as unsanitary, since I am finishing preparing a meal in my kitchen.

I have wondered if the boundaries of what is proper have changed about showing feet. In our ever-changing society, how is current etiquette decided? It seems that the “no feet showing” rule belongs in the 19th century when all of a woman’s body had to be covered in public. But if it is still proper that one should never wear sandals except on the beach, it would save me much money in pedicures and fine sandals.

Gentle Reader: Actually, you would have loved the 19th century, when the glimpse of a lady’s trim ankle was considered erotically exciting. Somehow, Miss Manners doesn’t think that toenails, however stunning, have quite the same effect today. Still, you could show them off in open-toed (now called peep-toe) shoes or sandals with soles. The propriety of barefootedness depends on what you mean by an informal dinner. Would it be a picnic on the patio? Would the guests know that they need not change from whatever they lounge around in at home?

If it is anything slightly more structured, Miss Manners would recommend starting with shoes, and then kicking them off, as ladies in tight shoes are wont to do under the table, even at the most formal dinners.