DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are aware that when dining, etiquette dictates that gristle is placed on the side of one's plate. However, I think that it is unappetizing and downright disgusting to stare at gristle (mine or someone else's) at the dinner table. How can something so gross be proper?
At home, I ask my husband to place his in a napkin and dispose of it in the garbage. When we are dining at a friend's house or a restaurant, I ask him to keep it in a folded section of his napkin. He humors me, but believes I am breaking the rules.
Is my modified rule acceptable, or am I simply too squeamish? Who thought up this rule?
GENTLE READER: The Etiquette Council's Subcommittee on Gross. It is pretty squeamish itself, and ran from the room at the thought of opening a napkin for the laundry and finding chewed gristle in it.
Miss Manners does not advise trying to coax the council members back by saying you were planning to use a paper napkin. They are squeamish about that, too. Their parting advice was for you to trim the meat in the kitchen as best you can, and refrain from staring into your husband's plate.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At Wimbledon time, we're always subjected to the sight of American tennis players bowing or curtseying to the royals in the box! I thought it was inappropriate for Americans to bow to foreign royalty under any circumstances. But my co-workers tell me it would be very bad manners for the Americans not to do so because the tennis players are not there in an official government capacity.
I say it doesn't make any difference. I recall a flap in Washington some years ago when the wife of the American ambassador to Great Britain was photographed curtseying to the queen, and she was severely criticized for it. What do you say?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners blushes to have to say that she is the one who caused that flap, back in her days as an intrepid young reporter. She thought it her duty to reassure the nation that we had not, in fact, reverted to colonial status, when we would have to bow down before temporal leaders.
Although your co-workers are quite incorrect, Miss Manners cannot agree with you that it makes no difference. This gesture is not an ordinary bit of foreign etiquette one might adopt out of courtesy when traveling. It is a sign of obeisance. Even the British do not perform this to any royalty but their own. Americans do not properly bow to any royalty. We show respect for other countries' leaders the same way we do to our own, except that we give them the added courtesy of not telling them how to run their respective governments.