Random Issues and Observations, Vol 15, Issue 58

It's been quite a while since Etiquetteer's offered a potpourri/grab bag/salmagundi kind of a column, but that's what the inbox is providing at the moment. Let's look at mourning clothes, group texts, and holiday cards:

Many of us noticed Hillary Clinton's black pantsuit with purple lapels when she gave her concession speech last week. Now everyone knows that in Western culture black is the color of mourning, but true connoisseurs of style and symbolism were quick to note Secretary Clinton's combination of it with purple. Purple, along with white and gray, take mourning from what was called "deep mourning" of all black to "half mourning," which includes those colors. An even greater bit of symbolism: the combination of black and purple represents "triumph over death," which Etiquetteer discovered when reading Infinite Variety, the biography of the outrageous Marchesa Luisa Casati (and which Etiquetteer has pointed out before). The famous portraitist Giovanni Boldini painted the Marchesa in a black dress with an infinitely long streamer of purple and a huge disk of purple violets, perfectly expressing the Marchesa's unshakeable belief in her own invincibility.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I was at a Remembrance Day Service at Battalion Park which is about 15 minutes from my place. It was an outdoor service. There was a few times during the Service that I took off my hat. I noticed that a woman next to me also took her hat off at the same times during the Service. I as a male took off my hat, but I thought women didn't have to do the same thing. I am not saying that women have a free pass for not taking hats off during services like this.

Dear Capped:

You're correct that the old-fashioned rule is that ladies keep their hats on, but gentlemen remove their hats. It isn't clear to Etiquetteer whether or not you removed your hat because of elements of the service, or because you were uncomfortable. For all Etiquetteer knows, this woman could have been following your lead of uncertainty of what to do.

For an outdoor memorial service in a place that offers no shade, Etiquetteer would bend the rules sufficiently to allow gentlemen to leave their hats on. There's no point in getting sunstroke and possibly providing another reason for a memorial service.

Dear Etiquetteer:

Sometimes I receive a group text and not all the phone numbers are in my contacts. They appear as phone numbers. Is it rude to ask for a name for a phone number? Should I offer mine, too? I think if I don't have theirs, they may not have mine. I was curious about how to handle this.

Dear Text Groupie:

By all means, identify yourself and ask others to identify themselves! In situations such as this, which are initiated by Someone You Know, everyone has the privilege of knowing exactly to whom they are communicating. But the situation you describe also sounds like a good reason to avoid group texts.

But then Etiquetteer admits to bias against them anyway. Etiquetteer endures a certain amount of good-natured teasing about continuing to use a flip phone; it's only three years old, but already an antique. Compared to smartphones, its limitations include a much smaller screen and actually having to flip it open to use it. Some time ago a New Acquaintance included Etiquetteer in a group text with who knows how many Total Strangers, leading to a good 20 minutes or so of a constantly vibrating flip phone with texts from random numbers filled with Meaningful Content like "LOL!" and "Yes!" Etiquetteer has not spoken to the New Acquaintance since.

The latter half of November has now begun, which prompts Etiquetteer to remind Thoughtful Readers to prepare for sending out their Holiday Cards. Aside from actually creating or purchasing cards, it's just as important to review your address list to correct mistakes, change addresses of anyone who's moved, and to add new friends. Cards for the Winter Holidays may be sent immediately after Thanksgiving (for those eager to Launch the Season) or even as late as Twelfth Night (the true Twelfth Day of Christmas).