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A&E >  Food

Good luck policing people’s choice of dress

Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: You see a lot of cleavage in all sorts of settings these days, and most of it has been exposed proudly and purposely, so I’m used to trying to ignore such things. I’m sure it is none of my business to point out unwise clothing choices, even if I find the overexposure embarrassing or offensive.

If there’s a chance that person is unaware that he/she’s unintentionally exposed a private part of his/her body, it’s another matter and makes me feel that I should do something to help if I can.

Yesterday, I stopped to get gas and while standing next to my car, looked over at a young woman who was squatting beside her car putting air into her tire. Her back was to me. She was wearing medical scrubs, which had slipped down to a really embarrassing position, exposing part of her lower back and derriere. It was pretty clear she wasn’t wearing underwear.

I thought, “No one wants to see that kind of cleavage,” but noticed several other customers had noticed and were amused at the view. I thought about saying something to her so she could pull up her pants and stop the show, but what? She knew she left the house without underwear and the breezy cool day should have signaled her that she had way too much exposed. I suppose there was a chance she didn’t know, but just as a good a chance that she knew and didn’t really care.

I thought about strolling over to block the view of her back from the other customers, but didn’t want to call any more attention to her. I ended up looking away and doing nothing. I felt bad about it.

I have girls this age and would hate to think of strangers ogling them that way. We used to see similar examples of all kinds of cleavage overexposure on a regular basis at a college where I worked. Students would gather between classes right outside our windows. Girls in low-waisted jeans would sit on a brick ledge and boys would gather on the sidewalk in back of them to take in the view.

Most of those girls really didn’t care. I know this because some of the female faculty tried to talk with them discreetly and were rudely dismissed until they finally gave up trying. What should I have done in these situations?

Gentle Reader: Do, please, hold on to that realization that you cannot go around policing the dress code. It would be rude, as well as what you have already discovered – futile.

If you promise Miss Manners to confine yourself to cases where you have good reason to assume that the revelations are unintentional, she will allow you to whisper, “I don’t know if you realize that you have an audience.”

Dear Miss Manners: When escorting a lady down the aisle, as in a wedding, which is the correct position of the man’s right forearm? Is it horizontal across the front or down near the right side? I did the former. Was I correct? A cupcake and a glass of punch is riding on your answer.

Gentle Reader: You are correct, but Miss Manners begs you to let go of the lady before you get overly triumphant and slosh punch on her nice dress.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.

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