The urge to monogram anything that doesn't move is delightfully genteel, Miss Manners has always thought. What a pretty picture it is to think of all those nice young ladies spending their teen-age years flashing their needles as they put their own marks on the linens they will use after they marry.
The process has been somewhat speeded up, she has been given to understand. Young ladies who are flashing needles are now clapped into rehab, while others may be flashing something else. She has even heard tell that young ladies do not wait as long as they are supposed to in order to leave marks on linens.
Nevertheless, monogramming is still popular and perhaps even more useful.
For old traditionalists, waking up in monogrammed bed linen provides a clue to their identity. For nontraditionalists, Miss Manners supposes that it provides a clue as to the identity of anyone else in the immediate vicinity. This is not a perfect system, as monograms on sheets and blanket covers on a well-made bed would be upside down from the point of view of the sleeper, but it is better than asking.
Monograms on silver have the advantages of enabling the owners to identify any wandering forks they might re-encounter at the police station or on the dinner table of a former guest. These should also happily remind one of the ancestor who bequeathed them, either to oneself or to the intermediary owner who turned them in for cash via the antiques market.
Kindly souls who wipe away the tears of others, and unkindly souls, who cause tears in others, should have monogrammed handkerchiefs to hand over. This brings some dash to a situation otherwise lacking it. It also creates an emotional sequel, as the easily identifiable handkerchief remains with the sufferer. Should it be returned (duly laundered) with apologies and gratitude, a lachrymose combination that could start the cycle again? Or should it be kept as a souvenir?
Other good candidates for monogramming are paper, shirts, luggage, towels, the linings of coats and apparently just about anything else that will hold still long enough. Miss Manners has seen catalogues offering monogrammed chewing gum containers.
Perhaps she should set some limits.
Shall we say that there should be no more than one set of monograms visible at a time? So if you monogram the towels, you don't monogram the bathmat and the shower curtain and trace your initials on the steamed-up bathroom mirror. And if you monogram your shirt cuffs, you can't also have monograms on the cufflinks.
Household linens may be monogrammed with the maiden initials of the lady of the house, a custom dating from premarital monogramming that serves equally well for serial marriages. Couples who are tempted to entwine their initials should try to get it out of their system by carving their names together on a tree.
The standard style has the initial of the surname in the middle and the given names on either side, but this should not be attempted by those who have four or more initials. It is equally correct to put the surname larger on the right with preceding initials in a tower to the left, or to crowd them all into a little block, or to pile them on top of one another as if you were typing them and the keys had jammed.
They don't even have to be easily decipherable. However, the look of long hairs disappearing down the drain is not a happy one.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My older brother does not leave the house. He sleeps on the couch until after two in the afternoon. When he is awake, he finds it necessary to dominate anything that is going on. I find it impossible to find peace at home under these circumstances. I love my brother and do not want to be rude. What must I do?
GENTLE READER: Two things:
1. Refrain from saying, "Get a life!"
2. Help him get a life.
Miss Manners does not normally sully herself by digging around for root causes of rudeness. It would be pointless, as she doesn't accept them as excuses anyway. But even she recognizes that a young man who does nothing but stay home and nap is not a likely candidate for etiquette improvement.