Ask Amy: A gentleman ponders gender salutations

Dear Amy: I have an etiquette question.

Is it still acceptable to refer to men as “gentlemen” and women as “ladies?”

I have read that some people may take offense to the use of those words.

At baseball games that I attend, the team used to be introduced on the field by the announcer saying, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, here are your Pittsburgh Pirates!”

Now, most announcers at the ballpark simply say, “And now, here are your Pittsburgh Pirates!”

I would be interested to know your position on this.

— Polite Gentleman

Dear Gentleman: I didn’t realize that I needed to have a “position” on this. (Nor is this really an etiquette question.) But let me take a swing at it.

I am female, and although perhaps I can’t really claim to be a “lady,” I am not personally bothered at all by being politely referred to in this way.

However, there are fellow human beings who do not identify along a binary gender line as either female or male, and one would assume that some of these people are also baseball fans — buying tickets, beer, trinkets, and rooting for their hometown team.

Because of this, and for other reasons, I appreciate gender being left out of public announcements.

To illustrate, I was recently at a church service where I noted that the pastor had removed any reference to God as “Him” or “He,” only referring to this higher power absent of any gender references. (It’s not that hard to do.)

As a female, and after a lifetime of tacitly accepting that a male reference was somehow supposed to encompass all of humanity, this actually had a profound effect, and — quite frankly — brought me much closer to the message.

So, to answer your question — if you know that people are male, then refer to them as male: “Gentlemen,” “Sirs,” “Guys,” or whatever suits the occasion best.

If you know they are female, refer to them as female.

But if this new way of acknowledging a large number of human beings without reference to gender doesn’t hurt anyone, and may in fact help remind some of our shared humanity, then I’m all for it.

Now throw strikes, Rich Hill! Play ball!

Dear Amy: My fiancée and I have been together for over five years.

When her family had get-togethers, I noticed that they would say mean things to my fiancée, and she wouldn’t defend herself.

In response to this, I would lightly defend her, by making jokes or whatever.

The last couple of years when they’ve invited anyone to family events, they have specifically said that I’m not invited.

My fiancée just says, “Ok, no problem,” and she goes by herself.

Am I wrong in wanting her to stand up for me — or should I just leave it be?

— Stumbling

Dear Stumbling: Of course you want your fiancée to stand up for you! And not only is she not defending you, but now she is allowing her family members to bully her and now you — by excluding you.

When couples come together and decide to form a family, the idea is that they should walk through life hand-in-hand — as a team. They put their relationship at the center of their lives, with their families orbiting around them.

Your fiancée is obviously dominated by her family, and now that she has established her pattern of behavior when it comes to them, you’ll have to imagine what life with her will really be like.

It’s hard to envision a happy wedding celebration if your future in-laws refuse to be in your presence.

You two have a lot to work out. I hope you will delay your marriage until you really discuss and resolve these deep issues, preferably with the help of a couples’ counselor.

Dear Amy: I’m responding to the “Bargain Hunter” the well-off man who always looked for half-price entrees, while his wife went for full price.

My husband has always been thrifty (as have I), but he’s never tipped over into miserliness.

When we began to travel and eat out a bit more, we knew higher restaurant prices might cause him anxiety.

Our solution: I pay the bill, he never sees it, and he enjoys a blissful ignorance.

If Bargain Hunter can’t give up that control and let his wife pay the tab, his problems (and I’d say hers) are deeper than money issues.

— Big Tipper

Dear Tipper: I like your solution and — for “Bargain Hunter,” who loves to eat out and can definitely afford to pay full-price — I completely agree.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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