Dear Carson: Recently my husband and I went to out to dinner with another couple. The husbands sat opposite each other, and the other woman and I sat opposite each other. We thought this arrangement proper because you are supposed to alternate men and women.
However, we found it difficult because the men wanted to talk sports and we were interested in other things.
Is alternating men and women a hard and fast rule of etiquette? -- Cross Talk
Dear Cross: Actually the seating plan for alternating men and women is for more than two couples. When just two couples are dining together the rule is that same sex sits elbow to elbow.
This rule eliminates the problem you experienced.
Dear Carson: When I went to a stationary store to reorder my monogrammed fold-over stationary, I told the sales clerk that they were for responding to formal invitations as well as for sympathy notes. She told me that neither monogrammed nor fold-over type notes were appropriate for either purpose.
Have I been doing it wrong all these years? -- Questioning
Dear Questioning: In the strictest sense of the word, the clerk was correct. Sympathy notes should be on white or ecru black bordered stationary. Formal invitations require a flat sheet rather than the fold-over variety. However, in my opinion, this rule of etiquette is unrealistic and passe.
We are not expected to have the variety of stationery wardrobes of 30 years ago. As far as I am concerned, fold-over notepaper of white or ecru paper with subdued colored monograms and your handwriting in black or dark blue ink are perfectly acceptable.
Dear Carson: It seems that periods of engagements are getting longer, with some lasting up to two years. People say they need that long to secure the church, reception hall and caterer during peak seasons.
What do you think of such long engagements? -- Distant Future
Dear Distant: I think that long engagements are a strain on everyone involved and that weddings, in general, have become too large, too expensive and too complicated. Up to six months seems entirely long enough to me.
Ask Carson a question about etiquette by calling INFOLINE at 442-4444 and pressing 4422. Or Write to Ask Carson, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928. Email may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org