DEAR MISS MANNERS: Since there's no longer a "his" towel (actually, I no longer see those "his and hers" sets that were popular several decades past), how can I make it clear that the towels on the rack are mine?
My place is small, hence the one bathroom must serve for both my guests and myself. Though space is limited, I do have a basket of hand towels always available for their use. I wish some of my friends would do the same. There have been times I've dried my hands on my petticoat rather than the much used "my" towel hanging in their bathrooms.
Rather than insult them by labeling the basket "For Guests" (and some friends and family do not consider themselves "guests"), what can I do? Short of standing guard and directing them to use the guest towels, (which isn't practical when I am busy elsewhere with other guests), or simply removing all but the guest towels from that room (which also is not practical, as I often have -- and do heartily welcome! -- drop-in guests), how do I inform them that the towels in the basket are for their use?
Some of my family and friends are aware of the protocol and do use guest towels without being offended, but then another dilemma occurs: What to do with the used guest towel? In my instance, there is enough space on the vanity top to leave the used/damp towels, but is there a better solution for those of us who practice good hygiene along with hospitality? When I am elsewhere and they do provide guest towels, but there just isn't an empty spot to place it, what do I do with the used towel?
GENTLE READER: Could someone please explain to Miss Manners how the guest towel got to be the great totem of modern times? She can't wait to hear the part about why people think it is more polite to allow their hosts to realize, when they clean up after the visit, how many hands they have shaken that were apparently never washed after use.
It strikes her that if people were to exercise only one form of self-restraint out of consideration for others, they might pick something better. Such as not scooting into parking spaces that other people are already positioned to back into.
Use the guest towels, folks. That's why they're called guest towels. And leave them crumpled on the rack or sink or basket, so the host can put them in the wash when you have left after a hygienic embrace.
Efforts to cure guests of this inhibition have been pitiful. Some hosts put out small terry cloth towels in the hope that guests will think they use them for quick baths of their own, and that therefore anyone is free to grab them. Or paper ones, with the idea that the guests will figure they can destroy the evidence of their transgression, although not, one hopes, by making these disappear into the plumbing.
There are even hosts who have gone over the brink themselves and go in for a horror they call a "decorator towel" put out to tantalize guests who are not expected to use it.
Miss Manners is afraid the taboo may be too powerful. She suggests removing your bath towel when you have warning, and, when you don't, issuing your own warning by calling out, "I'm afraid I've left my bath towel there -- but there are towels for you in the basket."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are expecting our first child, and cousins from both our families are asking me if there will be a baby shower. So far, no one has offered to host one. (Both of our mothers are deceased.) What is the proper response?
GENTLE READER: "Why, no" (said pleasantly), "I don't believe there will be."
Miss Manners won't allow you to say, "No, so why don't you give one?" and anyway, relatives should not give showers for one another. There is nothing to prevent them from giving a little party within the family, but plenty wrong with your helping them think of doing so.