Friday, 10 February 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 10 February

To go out on Valentine’s night or not, is the question. Thomas Blaikie helps you negotiate the nuances of this special date

Dear Thomas,
A gentleman friend has asked me out for dinner. Only after we’d agreed a date did I realise, to my horror, that it will be Valentine’s Day – 14 February. What are his intentions? Will he show up with a card and flowers? Should I give him a heart-shaped box of chocolates? Or maybe he didn’t notice the date, either. Would it be rude to suggest a postponement?
June Poynings, Minster Lovell

Dear June,
You sound, as I may say so, in something of a frenzy. Everything depends on the exact degree of keenness you have for this gentleman – or does it? If you really don’t like him in ‘that way’, you’ve got to get out of it. You’ll have to tell him that, all of a sudden, you’re not free. Maybe you just realised it’s your day for cleaning the brass, or you’d forgotten you’re going on a cake-decorating course in Bournemouth.

If, on the other hand, the attentions of this man would not be entirely unwelcome, it would be very disappointing if he turned out to be so unromantic as to be oblivious to the potency of 14 February as a date. Equally he’s being somewhat sly and not entirely straightforward if he does know what day it is and is luring you down the candlelit-dinner path, hoping you haven’t noticed. It feels more like a trap. A dinner date on Valentine’s Day is for couples in an established relationship, not for wannabes – as a rule.

Nevertheless, you may decide you know this person well enough, and you’re going to make an adventure of it. In which case equip yourself with all the Valentine’s Day paraphernalia that money can buy (except, perhaps, don’t spend £4 billion on jewellery as the world does in total) and launch in. Be prepared to exercise superb poise if it all turns out to be a ghastly misunderstanding. Even so, you never know what it’ll lead to. If he’s any good, he’ll see the funny side.

Despite all I’ve said, I’m rather attracted to this novel idea of seeking a date on Valentine’s Day. If you’re going to rule out this particular gentleman completely, maybe you have others in mind to whom you could purr down the phone in an alluring way, just asking if they happen to be free.

Make sure that your plan is well formed, that you’ve got a table on hold in a suitable low-lit restaurant, and a reliable supply of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. This is perfectly acceptable behaviour for a lady, indeed to be encouraged and very modern. Ideally the man will be completely flummoxed, as well as rather thrilled. There might be awkwardness as to who should pay, but the answer is obvious: you. It was all your idea in the first place.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Young People

They don’t write thank-you letters, have no conversation, don’t finish what’s on their plates, are on their phones more often than not, either maddeningly silent or making too much noise. They leave doors open, exposing the elderly to draughts, and ride their bicycles on the pavement. In the past, of course, they weren’t like this at all. They didn’t speak unless spoken to and got up when a lady came into the room. Well, this just isn’t true. The opposite in fact.

Our wonderful staff writer, Melonie Clarke, has been delving in the archive of The Lady: ‘Modern youth indeed is accused of having no manners…’ this is The Lady for 1926 – but taking a surprisingly enlightened view. Youth has been subject to complaint since Aristotle’s time, but those who moan were young once. Manners do not deteriorate through the generations, they simply change. All the same, while ‘youth is impatient of much of which those of more mature years… see the true value, example is better than precept and assuredly less barren than censure.’ Well done, The Lady, for your thoughtful attitude in 1926.

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