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Miss Manners: Hats send a message, regardless of the sun

Dear Miss Manners: It’s long been explained that hats were worn as protection from the sun in times when people spent much more time outdoors. This makes sense.

And there is ample evidence of this, as in the discontinuance of hat-wearing by a majority of us who spend most of our waking hours indoors protected from the sun by shelter, while those who spend a great deal of time outdoors as part of their jobs continue to wear hats while outside.

Could it be that hats were not worn indoors because there is no direct sunlight, and thus no need?

Gentle Reader: Sun, rain, garbage, oncoming traffic, oncoming athletes, bad hair, no hair – Miss Manners can think of all kinds of reasons to wear head-coverings, quite aside from the main one, which is that they can look rather fetching.

But in many, perhaps most, cultures (Miss Manners hasn’t counted), head-coverings are highly symbolic. The specific rules as to who is entitled to wear what, and when and where hats are required to be worn or to be removed, differ among nationalities and religions, and between the genders.

Symbols being, by definition, arbitrary, they do not meet your standard of making practical sense. But one should not underestimate their emotional power. Failing to cover or uncover the head, according to the particular customs, can be interpreted as a deliberate sign of disrespect, with resulting consequences.

And yes, that applies to baseball caps.

Sibling drama

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I both had pretty horrible childhoods. As a result, we limit our interaction with the relatives that were implicated in those situations.

Unfortunately, that is difficult in regards to his sisters and their families. They and their offspring tend to be constantly involved in some sort of drama, i.e., multiple husbands/boyfriends who all turn out to be alcoholic/abusive; difficulty holding on to jobs and places to live; never having enough money to survive on … the list goes on and on. Even though they are always broke, they somehow have the money to go shopping, gamble, have brand-new phones and a steady supply of cigarettes and alcohol.

They are constantly begging us to send them money or let them move in with us. Every one of them dropped out of high school to have kids and still can’t understand why they are unable to find decent jobs.

My husband and I have worked very hard and we both have stable jobs. While we are by no means rich, we sacrifice so that we are able to save a little. We have simply been ignoring their texts, phone calls and messages for years, but they just don’t stop. It’s practically reached the point of harassment. How do we make them stop without coming off as horrible people?

Gentle Reader: They already think you are horrible people because you don’t support them, so Miss Manners suggests you stop having misgivings about ignoring them.