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Miss Manners: Even old-school ways can still be distracting in public

Dear Miss Manners: At a condo association meeting consisting of about 60 people, there was a head table with six people, facing about six rows of tables, about 5 feet away. In the front row were two ladies – not sitting next to each other – doing their needlework.

Is it proper to do needlework while at an event such as this? I noticed that the speakers were distracted (and so was I) by their movements. Between reading the directions and rearranging their work, one couldn’t help but turn their way to see what was going on. I say it is rude.

Gentle Reader: But what if they don’t have hand-held devices that enable them to check their e-mail, text message and play games while the committee is droning on?

Not that Miss Manners condones failing to pay attention at meetings, or rather, failing to look as if one is paying attention. She merely wants to make the point that there are worse distractions available. Needlework at least has precedent behind it. For centuries, ladies sat quietly doing needlework while gentlemen conversed around them, and didn’t miss a thing of what was going on.

Dear Miss Manners: I am confused as to how to reply to curious onlookers who ask if I and a friend are dating. We are not currently dating; however, we may sometime in the near future. “No” sounds too exclusive, however “No, not yet” sounds too presumptuous.

Gentle Reader: “Oh, we’re just good friends.”

Miss Manners urges you to continue saying this if you do begin dating. No one will believe you – they probably don’t now – but it will distract those curious onlookers from asking when you will become engaged.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I stay at hotels a few times a year – not expensive or luxurious hotels, but the sort frequented by those on corporate or government business. More and more often, we see other guests checking in who are carrying their clothes on hangers, minus a suitcase or any other covering except the occasional plastic bag from the dry cleaner.

When my husband said that he planned to “pack” this way on our next car trip, I asked him not to. He agreed not to because it would bother me, but when he asked why, I found it hard to put my objection into words.

My husband feels that a short trip from the car to the hotel room with his clothing on hangers is a small price to pay for not having to iron his shirts again after unpacking. I find the practice distasteful.

Am I being prudish or excessively finicky in my preference? Since my husband has been considerate of my feelings, I would like to consider his as well.

Gentle Reader: Good plan. Miss Manners does not really see why you find this offensive. It is not as if he is parading your underwear through the lobby. But you do, and both she and your husband understand that that is important.

And although this is not the household hints department, another good plan might be to buy him a garment bag.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@united, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10016.