Dear Miss Manners: More and more women are cutting in on the dance floor. Please give some guidelines for them and for the couples whose dancing together is interrupted by them.
Should they refrain from cutting in on a woman who is dancing with her own husband? Should they be considerate enough not to cut in on a sentimental number being danced by lovers?If the woman being tapped on the shoulder refuses to let her partner go, should he tell the intruder that he wishes to continue dancing with the one he is already dancing with? When a man cuts in on me, I tell him that I want to keep my present partner - is this correct?
Is cutting in acceptable with strangers and mere acquaintances? Among friends?
Somehow the practice seems impolite and mean - a real annoyance. Some people consider the people who do it to be pests. I know a gentleman who makes it a point never to ask a woman to dance if he has ever seen her cutting in on anyone, anywhere. He says that women who cut in have reached bottom.
Gentle Reader: Bottom? Your friend must lead a sheltered life.
Miss Manners has been reeling from astonishment (please, someone, quick cut in and rescue her) that such a traditionally sanctioned ballroom custom could be perceived as vicious.
But then she got to thinking back about the old days of stag lines at dances. The over-the-shoulder signal from either partner, begging to be relieved, in a way obvious to everyone in the room except to the person inspiring this plea, was not very nice.
Aside from that, the practice chiefly served to draw attention to the relative popularity of different young ladies. For every one who basked in the triumph of being besieged, there were several others sobbing and hiding in the ladies' room.
So on the whole, the custom was not a happy one. But its intent, which is to stimulate people to socialize more widely than if they stuck to one partner, ought to be useful among married couples, where popularity is not an issue, and rescue neither necessary nor possible.
But a variety of factors - marital insecurity, a scarcity of purely recreational time for married couples, and a general failure to understand that parties are a different form of entertainment from nightclubs, in that they require wide socializing - has made couples try to close themselves off. There is an unpleasant tone to the way people resent the sensible custom of separating married (or unmarried) couples at dinner parties, for example, as if there were something wrong in expecting dinner guests to make an effort to get to know new people.
Judicious cutting in - and why not by ladies? - would help mix the guests at any real party. In public accommodations, strangers attempting this would be committing an unpardonable intrusion on privacy, but among guests, the mere fact of being there is considered sufficient introduction.
Miss Manners is not prepared to mount an all-out defense of this practice, but she does require you to respond to it politely, whether you like it or not. Cutting in on a married couple is not, as you seem to think, equivalent to home-wrecking. And by refusing to leave one partner for another, you are offering an insult to a traditional social overture and probably embarrassing your partner into the bargain.
Dear Miss Manners: I am in the process of planning my mother's fourth baby shower. I know that it is not traditional to have more than one baby shower, and I do not wish to call it a tea. I also do not want to have any gifts. But I still would like to have the party like a baby shower.
Gentle Reader: Miss Manners commends you on your desire to honor your mother, rather than solicit presents from her friends, especially if they have been to a shower for her before.
Still, designating a party as a "shower" tips guests off that presents are expected. You really must call it something else - if not a tea, perhaps a party, or just a celebration. "I'm having a party for Mom" is so charming an invitation that although guests may nevertheless think of bringing baby presents, they will be much more likely to be thinking, "Isn't that sweet?" than, "Oh dear, I suppose I have to get her something."