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Miss Manners: Beware Critical Comments About Hair

Dear Miss Manners: A new chairman was recently hired for my department. He and his wife have been in town a few months and are gradually getting to know the rest of the faculty.

Miss Manners, the wife’s hairstyle is frankly grotesque. She wears it wildly teased and sprayed like a country singer from the ’70s. She is a nice lady, but everyone is tittering and making derisive comments behind her back. Can she (and her husband) truly be unaware of how inappropriate she looks? How, if at all, should this be addressed?

Gentle Reader: Does your college have a coiffure code? And do you really propose to enforce one unilaterally? Miss Manners warns you that to level criticism in any way will make your life a misery. You would only be asking people to judge your own stylistic choices.

Besides, there is only so much that can be done with hair, and therefore styles have a way of reappearing as if new. For all you know, the students, who weren’t born in the ’70s, might love and imitate this look, and you could soon see it all around the campus.

Dear Miss Manners: My son will graduate from high school, and we intend to celebrate by throwing a joint party with one of his friends. This shindig will be on a Sunday at noon and include a buffet lunch, with our two families inviting our own family and friends as well as a group of families who are in both of our circles. My question is how we word the invitation(s).

At first I thought our family would issue an invitation to our guest list just mentioning my son and the celebration, and my friend would do the same for her son. But now, I’m wondering if any of our guests who come would be made uncomfortable to arrive at our home to discover that another young man is celebrating at the same time.

But, by adding his name onto our invitation, would we be implying we expect some sort of recognition to both young men? What we really want is our guests to feel welcome to enjoy the food and friendship completely free of any expectations on our part. Should each family issue its own invitation, or should we do some sort of joint invitation to all?

Gentle Reader: Here is another way to honor your son and his friend: Have them issue the invitations, not to honor themselves, of course, but to celebrate their graduation. Miss Manners would consider it a gracious sign, to them as well as to their guests, that they are growing up and have reached a milestone of independence.

Dear Miss Manners: My very proper friend and her brother both tell me that it is rude to talk about how well (or poorly) one slept. I’m 66 years young, and I’ve never heard that admonition before. Have I been sleeping under a rock?

Gentle Reader: If so, you probably should tell someone who can help you to find more comfortable accommodations.

Otherwise, such bulletins should be addressed only to those who are presumed to have a real interest, such as hosts, doctors and people who are worried about your well-being. Most people don’t even want to hear your dreams.

Also, Miss Manners must gently inform you that as you want to present yourself as young, this is not the way to go about it.

Dear Miss Manners: An old friend, but one I had not kept in touch with for more than 15 years, called to say he’s visiting from the opposite coast and asked if we could get together. I was delighted to hear from him, and in the course of catching up on each other’s lives and arranging dinner, he inquired about my wife: “So are you and Jane still together?”

Well, neither has left the other for an upgrade; why, just this very morning she yelled at me for giving the dog too many treats. And neither of us has been hit by the proverbial bus.

So the question seemed a bit off-putting. On the other hand, given how fragile relationships and life are, the inquiry doesn’t seem completely inappropriate. Could it have been worded more artfully?

Gentle Reader: Yes. “How is Jane?”

Dear Miss Manners: It’s my third marriage. Should I have my dad walk me down the aisle?

Gentle Reader: If he doesn’t plead exhaustion from the first two trips.

Miss Manners reminds you that the guests will be aware that his previous attempts to give you away were unsuccessful. But the custom is now so far removed from its original meaning of a bride’s leaving the guardianship of her father for that of a husband that it hardly seems to matter.

D ear Miss Manners: I am developing a presentation on social media to inform students of proper content in regards to the work world and future employers. Currently, the most widely used standard is, ”If you wouldn’t want your mom (grandmother, or other family member) to see it, don’t post it.” However, I do not think this is adequate. Most families have similar moral and ethical backgrounds, and thus may be more lenient with content than the hiring manager of an international company.

What would you tell students to use as their guide?

Gentle Reader: Is there something wrong with saying, “If you don’t want a job interviewer or your boss to see it, don’t post it”?

An impeccable alternative would be, “Would Miss Manners approve?” You will note that she has phrased it in the conditional so as not to encourage those who think it would be delightful to try to shock her.

Miss Manners is written by Judith Martin, her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. You are invited to email your etiquette questions from, if you promise to use the black or blue-black ink you’ll save by writing those thank you, condolence and congratulations letters you owe.