Newport Manners + Etiquette: Prom Dress Code for Guys + More

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


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How to dress correctly for a prom can challenge the savviest of young men. Didi Lorillard offers smart counsel.

People are asking about the madness of May this month with etiquette questions to Newport Manners about disinheriting your only heir, a student cheating on an exam, and navigating graduation as a divorced mother of the graduate. Didi Lorillard's favorite, however, is a question about what guys should wear to senior prom.

Kids who cheat on exams

Dear Didi,

My eleven-year-old son is a very good student, great athlete, and popular. He's a good boy and a wonderful son who works hard at everything he does work or play. In spite of all that, he just got caught cheating on a school exam. We are beside ourselves. We just didn't see this coming. He always gets up early for workouts and stays late for team practice and plays on the local baseball team weekends. We taught him early on that cheating is just as bad as lying. What do we do so this doesn't happen to us again? Anonymous, Providence

Dear Anonymous,

When you're a helicopter parent hovering over your child's every waking hour, you run the risk of his fearing your disappointment. So much so that you may have nudged your son into cheating with the motive to please you. Sadly, we have become a pervasive cheating culture and your sixth grader is not the only student who does. A recent study of 23,000 high school students conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles found that cheating is on the rise in middle school and in high school, where, in an anonymous survey 51% of students admitted to cheating. An earlier elementary school study found 30% of the students anonymously admitted to cheating.

Sit down with your son and in a gentle but firm tone make a plan that includes showing you daily his homework and any papers that come home from school marked by the teacher and go over them together. If you haven't already emphasized the importance of doing his best at mastering skills by methodically learning those skills, say it. These days the fear and humiliation of getting caught doesn't seem to matter because kids feel that so many of their peers get away with cheating and never suffer the consequences of getting caught; they think they are invincible as well. Students with cellphones are more apt to cheat by sending answers and photos.

Understand that when your son cheats it means that he's not doing the work to learn the material and if that doesn't reflect your family's work ethic, he should comprehend that. After you've formulated a daily plan, figure out an activity to eliminate from his schedule so that he has more time to study. It sounds as though athletics take up a large proportion of his waking hours that could be spent learning the class material. As a family, meet with his teacher, advisor, or principal to let them know that you are handling the problem of your son's cheating and that you want to be notified if they suspect he may still be doing so. Stealing bases to score a home run, may not be the best approach. ~Didi

Graduation day woes for divorced mom

Dear Didi,

My daughter graduates law school this week. I am divorced from her father and he and I are on good terms—he lives out of state, but is attending the ceremony. During our divorce, his sister, a divorce attorney, though not representing him, secretly spoke to the judge in chambers and was admonished for it; the judge recused himself. Long story short, I filed a complaint against her, which was more for impact than resolution. We have been enemies since. My daughter has sent her an invitation to attend the ceremony, as she has with every member of her father's family—I have no living family. This is disaster brewing. I should be angry with my daughter for inviting her. But I am apoplectic over my former sister-in- law attending. Every time she is around us she positions herself—sometimes physically—between my daughter and me. When she was little she used to walk down the beach with her calling her her "best accessory"—suffice to say they are both blonde and beautiful. I do not know how to regain my composure. I fear some explosive outburst from me. I do not know whom to be angry with. With only a few days left, my daughter and I are not speaking. To make it worse, my ex has no money to pay for the dinner (which my sister-in-law will not attend) and I am left with a $1000 bill at a fine dining establishment. I've been advised to let it wash over me, take the high road and say nothing. I have turned my cheek and I feel like I am saying, 'walk over me'—I saw your article on GoLocal and thought—why not? What would Didi do? Thank you... A.Z., Providence

Dear A.Z.,

There are two things you have to focus on here to get through your daughter's graduation with dignity and grace. Firstly, this graduation is all about your daughter and her many accomplishments. It is not about your relationship with your former husband or the difficulties with your former sister-in-law.

Moreover, you are the primary role model for your daughter. It is up to you to maintain a calm, cool and collected demeanor for handling this one day in a savvy way. Keep remembering it will only be a couple of hours and that small amount of time should focus on your daughter and making her just as proud of you as you are of her.

As to your getting stuck with the bill. That should have been worked out in advance, not the week or day of her graduation. But that doesn't mean that you cannot send your former husband a thank-you for attending the dinner and ask politely if he would, please, reimburse you for his share. Or something to that effect. If you choose the fine dining establishment, you may have to deal quietly with the consequences or switch to a more moderately priced restaurant. It isn't too late to change your reservation. You can always celebrate again with your daughter at another time.

My best advice is for you to resolve that you are not going to allow yourself to have an explosive outburst and ruin your daughter's special day. Why? Because you'll look like a fool. And furthermore, you will have let your former sister-in-law get the better of you. Dig deep and find your most dignified, graceful and glorious self. Be the extraordinary mother and role model that you are.

Please, don't be angry at your daughter. Special days such as this leave lasting memories and you want your daughter to have good memories of her graduation from law school. You really cannot be angry at your daughter for inviting the little family she has, when her friends will be surrounded by larger loving families.

We mothers are the memory makers and the memory keepers. Make good choices about the memories you make. ~Didi

Disinheriting Your Heir

Dear Didi,

What is the proper way to inform a woman, age 32, who will soon have a PhD in an utterly useless discipline from a university with an impeccable pedigree and who was a cousin of my dead wife's that my will in which she was originally the sole heir has been replaced with one that does not name her at all? Anonymous, New Haven

Dear Sir:

There must be a good reason why you are changing your will, and not just the fact that you don't approve of the "utterly useless discipline" that your late wife's cousin has chosen. When she is on the brink of getting her doctorate, isn't it a bit late to be deciding that?

It looks like you have three choices here. Don't say anything and let your lawyer tell her after your death or write her a short note now saying you regret having to inform her that she is no longer included in your will. Or pay your lawyer to send her a formal letter to that effect.

In your letter you should make the reason for your change of heart short but clear, and that it is not up for discussion. Wish her well. Moreover, if you don't tell her why, you may come home one night to find her sobbing on your doorstep, or at the other end of your cellphone asking for a one-on-one meeting to plead her case.

In my opinion, since you've already led this person to believe that she is your heir, it would be kinder, as well as preventing an expensive and long-running legal challenge after your death, if you willed her a token amount of money. Otherwise, you will be remembered as being cranky, bitter and prickly, if not downright mean. I'm not saying you're an Indian giver, but you are breaking your word. ~Didi

High school prom dress code for lads

Dear Didi,

For a high school prom (this coming week) in Vancouver, Canada, may I wear morning attire such as a light blue blazer, light brown khaki pants, and royal blue suede dress shoes? Or is that too stand out for a senior prom? K.C., Vancouver

Dear K.C.,

Firstly, a morning suit is a daytime formal attire that is not usually worn to nighttime formals. Your outfit does not sound like the standard morning suit consisting of a morning coat, waistcoat, striped trousers, etc. What is the dress code for the high school prom? If the dress code is tuxedos, then you will be underdressed. If there isn't a dress code, by all means wear a jacket, tie, and khaki trousers with your royal blue suede dress shoes. ~Didi

We like hearing from you at and if we use your question, we're happy to post it anonymously. Didi researches contemporary etiquette and all matters of manners for her book, "Newport Etiquette," and her column for "Newport This Week." Or you can ask a question on Didi Lorillard's Facebook page or Twitter. Earlier weekly GoLocalProv columns are listed below and can also be accessed through search.


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