Summer, Vol. 1, Issue 6

Dear Etiquetteer:

Is it inappropriate for a male to simply walk down the street shirtless?  There are universally accepted situations in which this is appropriate (e.g., the beach, basketball, volleyball or any infinite number of other sports, going out running/jogging), but is it appropriate -- even on a hot, humid day -- just to walk through Harvard Square barechested, regardless of physique?

Dear “I’m So Beautiful Everyone Wants to Look at Me:”

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to get over yourself. It is inappropriate for a gentleman to walk down the street shirtless.  Sadly to Etiquetteer, not all men understand that they are supposed to be gentlemen -- especially men who’ve spent all winter at the gym pumping, pumping, pumping, and don’t care about anything but preening and posing before the world. They are wrong. They must be educated that the sight of their torsos on the public streets, whether fit or flabby, pierced or pristine, is inappropriate. Stop it at once, or Etiquetteer, wearing a flawlessly cut seersucker suit to deflect the rays of the sun, will handcuff you to a haberdasher. 

Dear Etiquetteer:

July 4th is almost here, and I am trying to prepare for a situation that came up at our church before, namely playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the church service. This song glorifies images of war and violence, which do not have a place in a house of worship. Several of us in the congregation would prefer “America the Beautiful” instead, which celebrates the natural beauty of our country. Nobody’s come to blows over this, but opinions are sharply divided. 

Dear Musical Militant:

Etiquetteer would like to remind you that the United States of America permits freedom of religion, a freedom not enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Etiquetteer considers it a necessary gesture of gratitude for churchgoers to include the national anthem in services near Independence Day, whether that national anthem is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” or “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” Until such a time as legislation changes the national anthem to another song, you’re stuck with the rockets' red glare and the bombs bursting in air.

That said, Etiquetteer sees nothing wrong with following the national anthem with “America the Beautiful,” which ought to accommodate everyone. And if you don’t wish to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” just close your eyes and think of England.

Dear Etiquetteer:

As we rapidly approach the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, I must ask how one should deal with one’s neighbors who insist on hanging their American flag out of their window like a musty bed sheet? I don’t want to be too harsh, and have subscribed to the principle that discretion is the better part of valor, up to this point, fearing that they may have lost a loved one or colleague in the attacks. We, as a nation, desperately need a refresher on proper flag etiquette and the proper place for flags, poles, and bunting. We look to the Etiquetteer for guidance.

Dear Flagwaver:

Since we are even more rapidly approaching another date on which Our Flag is displayed prominently, Independence Day, this is an appropriate time to discuss How to Wave Your Flag. First of all, you appear to be mistaking your neighbor’s flag for a matador’s cape. It’s important to see the white and blue as well as the red. Deal with this by displaying your own flag, using one of those handy brackets from the hardware store to affix it to your front door or window. This appears neither more nor less proper than the way you describe your neighbor’s display, as long as you both keep the flag from touching the ground, and take it in at night unless it’s directly lit. Indeed, Etiquetteer has seen several households hang the flag inside their front windows, although it does give a more collegiate appearance.

As you continue to observe the less-than-Martha-quality flag next door, Etiquetteer encourages you to reflect on the nature of freedom.