Dear Carson: My girlfriend and I have been dating for about two years, and I love her very much. She is from a very traditional Mexican-American family, where how you ask something is just as important as what you ask.
The proper next step is to ask her father for her hand in marriage. The problem is that I'm not sure exactly how or who should be present when the question is asked.
Another complication is that our relationship has been long distance: I live in Texas and she lives in California. We visit quarterly and on the telephone frequently.
I have met her parents a few times, and I have no trouble conversing with any of her family, except her father. I understand he has no problem with me, but like me is quiet and observant, rather than outspoken. How should I approach this situation? - On Bended, Nervous Knee
Dear Nervous Knee: Write or call her father and ask him to set aside a time during your next visit when you and he may visit privately.
If you want to ask the mother to be present as well, that is up to you. Tell him that you love and respect his daughter and that you would like his blessing to propose to her. Elaborate on your ability to support or contribute to the support of his daughter and reassure him of your care and commitment to her.
Dear Carson: My girlfriend is inviting her friends to a bridal shower for her daughter-in-law. Only women will be invited, and she is unsure how to address them: "Mrs. Henry Watson" or "Mrs. Alice Watson". We disagree, so please put an answer in your column. Thanks. - Addressee Angst
Dear Angst: Either is correct, but having a shower for a daughter-in-law is not. It is considered a breach of etiquette for a member of the immediate family to initiate a social gathering that entails the giving of gifts. It appears to be greedy and self-serving.
Hello, Carson: Is it appropriate to ask my corporation to use the title "chair," as opposed to "chairman"? I am female and do not think that the perpetuation of the male-specific titles is psychologically healthy for my peers or younger women. - Title Technology
Dear Title Tech: Your query smacks of nitpicking and feminine militancy. Chairman is considered generic. I suggest saving your battles for more cogent matters, such as equal pay for equal work. I am for women's rights but consider myself a "soft feminist" who saves battles for matters more likely to penetrate the glass ceiling.