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Cats Are Not The Same As Children

Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I are a middle-aged couple with no children. We are also cat owners.

In the past few months, various in-laws have begun adding “& Cats” after our names when addressing mail to us.

I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but we feel that it simply draws attention to the fact that we don’t have children. It does not make us feel good. We find it very insensitive, although I don’t think it’s meant to be. How can we politely let them know we’d prefer it if they didn’t do this?

Gentle Reader: Revolted as she is by this bizarre idea, Miss Manners would not exactly call it insensitive. It is, rather, a contemporary strain of supersensitivity - one so full of innovative impertinence that it almost makes the old uncontrived insensitivity look good.

How dare these people assume, first, that you feel left out because you don’t have children and second, that they can make it up to you by pretending that your pets are children?

The dignified response is to fail to understand what they have in mind and simply to request them to remove the addition. Miss Manners strongly advises you to offer no explanation other than that your cats do not conduct correspondence. Giving such people any indication of your feelings would only feed their misplaced pity and encourage them to have another go at you.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a horseback-riding instructor at summer camp, and I wear a cap with the stars and stripes printed on it to help the children and their parents find me faster.

We have “flagpole” every morning, during which we do announcements and say the Pledge of Allegiance, and my co-workers were totally offended when I didn’t remove my hat.

I was raised with Southern values, one of which is that a lady does not remove her hat. I do understand that men remove their hats when they enter a room, in the presence of women and in the presence of our American flag, but a lady salutes by placing her right hand over her heart.

I have never removed a hat from my head for any reason, and no one had ever demanded that I do so.

I am respecting their wishes for now, in spite of my own morals. My parents agree with me but encourage me not to make an argument out of it.

Gentle Reader: Good for them. Miss Manners is gratified that they reared you as a lady but implores them to finish the job by explaining that a lady must understand the nuances of etiquette so that she may apply it delicately to each particular situation.

For example, you say that you have never removed your hat. Not even if you were blocking the view of someone behind you? Not even after dusk, at which time no Southern (or Northern, Eastern or Western) lady deserving of the name would fail to remove a daytime hat?

Indeed, ladies’ hats are not removed as a gesture of respect, as are gentlemen’s. But the hat in question here does not sound to Miss Manners like a lady’s hat, not even a lady’s riding hat, which - as if to prove the point about etiquette being complicated - is a gentleman’s high silk hat or bowler, nevertheless sanctioned for ladies’ use at sport.

Why doesn’t Miss Manners confer that status on the riding cap she presumes you are wearing?

Because horsewomen have since gone to a great deal of effort to take gender-specific rules out of the sport, so that they can ride astride, rather than sidesaddle, and compete as professional jockeys. You cannot accept the privileges of its being a unisex sport with unisex clothing and then invoke a rule meant for ladies wearing ladies’ clothing.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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