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Miss Manners, Judith Martin, Published August 11 2012

Miss Manners: Texting a marriage proposal not recommended

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the past year, two male friends whom I have known for many years proposed marriage to me. I turned them both down due to the fact that both asked me in a text message.

Miss Manners, when did asking for a woman’s hand in marriage become so impersonal? I frankly felt offended that neither was willing to ask me in person on one knee.

One of the previously mentioned men I would love to marry. He is a great guy who has been there for me through thick and thin for seven years going on eight, and we work very well together. I’m 27 years old and still think that if a man is going to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, he should at least talk to her father about it and get permission to ask. Am I being too old-fashioned in this thought?

GENTLE READER: Or perhaps not old-fashioned enough. The showy, on-one-knee proposal is a modern standard, derived from cartoon ideas of Victorian proposals. Old-fashioned gentlemen were not absolutely required to propose from the floor.

Nor did they text. Miss Manners agrees that texting, which is a lightweight way of conveying instant thoughts, is unsuitable. That you have captivated two gentlemen who thought this would charm you is alarming.

Nevertheless, one of them is someone you want to marry. Seven years through thick and thin, and that’s it?

Would you accept a compromise between the overly casual and the overly contrived? That would be the dignified statement that he loves you and wants to spend his life with you, followed by the simple (but, from the right person, thrilling) question of whether you will marry him. To prompt that, you could text (because this would not be a formal communication), “If you have an important question to ask me, I would be glad to listen.”

As for first asking a father’s permission, that comes to us from a time when the father had the option of refusing. His daughter would wear him down eventually, of course, but permission was seriously required. And the answer often came only after a thorough financial grilling of the suitor, because he would be expected to assume the sole financial support of his wife that her father had been supplying.

Miss Manners is guessing that this does not describe your situation. The form of asking permission, like that of a father giving away the bride, can be retained as a charming anachronism, but only after the lady both consents and warns her father. You wouldn’t want him to ask to see the young man’s portfolio, and you certainly wouldn’t want him to say, “But I thought she was seeing Zachary.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the correct sequence of courses in a meal?

GENTLE READER: (1) oysters, (2) soup, (3) fish, (4) roast meat, (5) vegetables, (6) game, (7) salad, (8) creamed or frozen sweet dessert, (9) cheese, (10) fruit, (11) chocolates or wafers served with coffee.

This is Miss Manners’ abbreviated list from what used to be considered a proper dinner. You are welcome to pare it down even more, if you don’t mind your guests’ foraging in your refrigerator afterward, but please keep the correct order.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.