DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the relatively distant past, all newcomers to the society of priests to which I belong were given etiquette instructions, one of which cautioned against using our knives to bring food to our mouths. At the time, I was aghast that such a caution was considered necessary.
Fast forward to the present and, behold, I am once again aghast, not at the instruction, which is no longer disseminated, but by the practice of my brothers in religion, a good number of whom regularly lick their knives or use them in lieu of the forks and spoons supplied at all of our place settings.
I have suggested to the cutlery enthusiasts that the practice violates old church regulations as well as perennial etiquette propriety. Getting nowhere with this direct approach, I have settled into looking askance or catching my breath at the offense. While I suspect you will not care to intrude into the internal affairs of faith-based organizations and their Friar Tuck-like dining traditions, I hope you will feel free to express your opinion as an etiquette professional.
GENTLE READER: Although perpetually feeling free to express her opinions, Miss Manners is probably not as adept at forgiveness as you -- and you can hardly expect her to forgive sins of etiquette. All the same, she imagines that if your fellow priests in the past needed basic instructions on how to eat, a newer generation, reared in a time when communal meals at home are rare and etiquette instruction even rarer, would need them even more.
Could you not put this down to ignorance -- which even etiquette treats with pity -- and work out a way to offer them some enlightenment?
That about exhausts Miss Manners' tolerance. If they know the ritual but refuse to follow it, either because they don't care whether they disgust others or because they think there is virtue in violating the conventions, they are more in need of moral enlightenment.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My best friend believes that a wedding gift needs to match the quality/cost of the wedding. She feels that if the invitation states "Reception at the Ritz," you should purchase a more expensive gift.
I believe a gift is supposed to come from the heart, and is based more on how close you are to the couple getting married. If my sister were to get married in the back yard, I would still give her the best gift I could afford. Would you please explain the proper wedding gift etiquette?
GENTLE READER: Really, this is your best friend?
Miss Manners is amazed, considering how different are your respective approaches to personal relationships -- of which presents that are exchanged are symbolic. Your idea seems to be that such ties should be governed by emotion, whereas your friend's sentiment is that to them that has should be given. You may love her anyway, but there is nothing proper about her position.