DEAR MISS MANNERS: As my son is attending his first formal, I realize that I am unaware of the rule of dress for this occasion. For example, isn’t my son’s tie supposed to coordinate with his date’s dress? What style of suit is appropriate?
GENTLE READER: Well, there are rules, and then there are rules. You could use Miss Manners’ rules for gentlemen’s evening dress, which are strict about black ties being black ties, no funny business allowed. This might teach him to respect dignity – or it could traumatize him as violating high school custom.
A compromise might be in order. Ask him to inquire about what is expected – first from the sponsors of the dance, and then from his peers. The sponsors will know whether the boys customarily rent formal evening clothes or wear suits. Your son’s female peers can tell him about his date’s expectations in the way of flowers and coordinated ties.
Just don’t encourage him to ask his male peers. Teenage boys like to think they are satirizing formality, when they don’t actually know what formality is.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A male friend who, to the best of my knowledge, was not led on in any way to believe I had feelings beyond friendship for him, proposed to me on Valentine’s Day. I was completely blown out of the water.
I said: “I am your friend and do not feel anything else for you. I can’t accept your proposal, but I hope we can continue to be friends.” He agreed, but has not contacted me since.
I figure he needs time to come around, but my sister says that I was cruel in how I declined. Is there a proper way to turn down a proposal with minimal bruised feelings?
GENTLE READER: There is only one response to a marriage proposal that is not thought cruel by the proposer: “Yes.”
Of course it is galling to be offered friendship when one had hoped to inspire passionate love. However, Miss Manners can assure your sister that it is a great deal kinder than the popular alternative: explaining what it is about that person that failed to kindle romance.