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20-40-60 Etiquette: Boyfriend flips lid over cap

Boyfriend said cap at the table was "just wrong."

Boyfriend said cap at the table was "just wrong."

QUESTION: First of all, I just turned 65. My boyfriend is 68.

We played golf that afternoon, and we were putting dinner together. I left my baseball cap on due to bad hair. After sitting down for dinner at his house at the center island, I was putting salad on my plate.

My boyfriend didn't ask me to take off my cap but in an intense voice said it was just wrong. I was offended, took it off and said I was going upstairs to wet down my hair so I didn't have “hat hair.” After I came down he had put my plate in the oven to keep the steak and potato warm. I was gone for about five minutes and didn't think the cap was that big of a deal. But his tone bothered me and now I'm wondering if he has some underlying issues about things I didn't know about.

If he had told me earlier, I could have done it without interfering with my dinner. I'm not sure about the answer or what's right or wrong or what's appropriate. Any ideas?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: You should feel comfortable enough to have an adult discussion about this issue with your boyfriend. If you do not, that says a lot about the relationship in my opinion. I would have asked right then, "what is the bother? I have hat hair and don't want to take it off." Communication is key to every relationship.

HELEN'S ANSWER: I don't know if your boyfriend had a mother who told him women should not wear hats in their own homes, but it is not a strict rule. My own feeling is that baseball caps or other men's styled hats are traditionally are not worn inside.

Usually if a woman wears a hat it is part of her fashion statement. Scarves used as headbands are great when a woman has not had time to fix her hair.

As to how he offended you, clear communication would work here. Talk about it and explain your actions and how his actions affected you.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Yes, men traditionally remove caps indoors or at the table. Women traditionally have left fashion hats on because they are part of their outfits. But recent etiquette has indicated that women should remove casual hats like baseball caps indoors, too. But I don't think etiquette is the issue here.

A casual dinner alone with your boyfriend after a golf game, for which neither of you have cleaned up, doesn't seem like the time to stick to these rules rigidly. He could have asked you to remove it. You could have had a discussion about why he felt so adamant about this etiquette rule or questioned why he was so stern in asking you something simple. Maybe there's more to it than you know. I guess next time you'll know that he feels strongly about caps at dinner and you can plan accordingly. But it sounds like you still have some questions for him that stretch beyond etiquette.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker who has taught etiquette classes at Oklahoma Christian University: My understanding of the etiquette rules is that in our culture it is appropriate for a man to remove his hat at the dinner table and in worship services. My granddad who farmed and ranched always wore a cap or a Stetson hat, but anything on his head was removed once he came into the house, the church building or any other establishment, such as a school or a restaurant. Women do not have the same rules of etiquette when hats are the issue. In fact, many years ago women were to cover their heads, especially in church services and in some religions are still required to.

Even with these rules in place, they are not always well known or followed today. I believe there has been a communication issue between your boyfriend and you. It is hard to know "if he has any underlying issues.” His communication wasn't clear to you and because of his tone, it was hurtful to you.

The best way to find out what he was thinking or what his understanding of the etiquette rules are is to ask him. By now time has gone by, so it should be a safe subject. I would encourage you to use these words, "when you told me to take off my hat, it hurt my feelings", instead of, "you were rude when you told me to take off my hat." The latter statement would set him up to be defensive. Then I would encourage you to just listen. You will learn a lot. I would encourage you to let him say everything he is going to say without replying to him. You might give yourself time to think about what he said for a few hours before replying.

The great thing about your relationship is you are dating. That isn't permanent. If you talk to him and feel his explanation wasn't reasonable or he isn't willing to try to change and you felt he should, you have the opportunity to end the relationship. Best wishes!

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email