DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother brought his fiancee to dinner at my house for the first time, after telling me how much my mother would like her because of her good manners. I served a formal dinner, or at least not a casual one, in our dining room with nice table linens.
When I was doing the laundry afterwards, I found that the fiancee's dark lipstick was smeared all over the hand-embroidered napkin she had used. After several launderings with different stain removers, I've had no success in removing the offending stain.
As a hostess, should I expect this to occur and simply throw away the napkins after a meal, or should I offer paper napkins instead? (Or perhaps I need laundry tips?)
I've had many dinner parties without encountering this problem. My brother is now married to her and I haven't yet invited them for dinner.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners' mind has flashed ahead to when you and your sister-in-law are old ladies and she finally works up the nerve to say to you, "I had always hoped we would be close, and all these years I've racked my brain trying to think what possible thing I could have done to offend you. You gave that lovely dinner for me 40 years ago, when I was first engaged, and then never again from that day to this. I understand your house is lovely."
What are you going to say? "Well, sure, except for that napkin you ruined, that hand-embroidered napkin! You didn't think I was going to give you a chance to do that again, did you?"
True, hosts should not have to expect their guests to use their napkins as make-up towels. Still, let's see if this relationship can be saved without having to resort to paper napkins.
Miss Manners doesn't do laundry tips, but you could ask your sister-in-law for one. Enough time has gone by that it should not seem pointed if you get into a cozy household discussion, during which you confide that you have had a lipstick stain problem and inquire whether she knows a remedy.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I showed up at 7:30 (the time appointed on the printed invitation) for an evening wedding "reception/dance" by the parents of a long-time neighbor and friend with whom our children had grown up. We found that the wedding had taken place in the early afternoon and the invited guests were just finishing the "dinner" and the wedding cake had already been cut and served.
I have, over the years, been asked by acquaintances (mostly business) to "stop by" for the evening dance and have not been offended, but never have I received a printed invitation that has put me in such an awkward position. I was not offended by not being invited to the wedding, but very offended that I was expected to arrive later (gift in hand) with not even a clean table to accommodate myself, husband and another couple who also live in the neighborhood.
Perhaps you can shed a little light on a situation that has hurt my feelings and how I could have handled it at the time or in the future when speaking with my neighbor. Is this proper etiquette today?
GENTLE READER: No, but oddly enough, it was yesterday -- sort of.
This sounds like a crude variation of the invitations that were once sent to only a wedding ceremony or only a reception, with some of the guests receiving enclosed cards also inviting them to the part of the festivities not mentioned on the main invitation.
Now that Miss Manners comes to think of it, that was a crude idea itself and should not have been done then, let alone now. That you received second-class treatment seems to her to be the consequence of accepting a second-class invitation.