DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have just found out that a sister-in-law of mine has propositioned several of my male relatives, including my husband.
Now, she may think this is just harmless flirtation or, in one case, a misinterpretation of how she behaved when she sat on one man's lap. I have been on friendly terms with her up to now and she has not acted this way toward men in my presence.
I am rather angry about this situation, so I am at a loss about how to act toward her when I see her at future family gatherings.
Do I let her know that I know? Do I act as if I don't know? She and my brother have been married just a few years and I'm not sure he is aware of her behavior.
GENTLE READER: You are going to have to let Miss Manners know what you hope to achieve by letting your sister-in-law know that you know.
Would the idea be to punish her? Or just to try to make her stop? And what effect are you willing to produce on your brother?
If you sacrifice venting your anger -- and Miss Manners realizes that it is a sacrifice -- you may be able to put a damper on this activity without setting off scenarios that do not bear thinking about: counteraccusations that it was they who propositioned her, your brother's having to choose between thinking his wife or his sister is treacherous, and perhaps some of your informants' attempting to avoid unpleasantness by retreating and calling it harmless flirtation.
You can pre-empt all that by defending your sister-in-law. To do this, you must first supply the attack:
"I'm really upset at the cracks some of those awful men are making about you. How dare they say you're chasing them? They're so egotistical."
The response to this will be, "Who? Who? Who?" to which you must reply, "I wish I could tell you, but I'm sworn to secrecy. I'll keep an eye out, though, and see who is behaving disrespectfully to you."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Somewhere along the line I must have been ingrained with certain napkin prejudices, right or wrong: If there is a linen napkin it goes straight into my lap. Paper stays on the table.
After all, a good linen napkin actually has some chance of protecting one's lap from that unfortunate spill, while a paper napkin seems ineffectual and looks a bit silly perching on a lap. I never questioned this rule until now.
I was out at lunch at a very average restaurant with a friend from work. When my friend took the paper napkin from under the utensils, neatly unfolded it and put it into his lap, it took me by surprise. I did not follow suit, but instead pretended not to notice, although I think it may have been obvious that I had.
After the fact, I wonder if I was wrong altogether, and it is perfectly acceptable -- the standard even -- to put a paper napkin in one's lap? Even if it isn't, maybe I should have done it anyway, so as not to draw attention to the matter?
Yes, probably. I realize it is a silly, inane question (still, I'd be thrilled to get an authoritative answer).
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is impressed by the speed with which you went from calling your idiosyncratic notion a prejudice to calling it a rule.
It isn't. There are no special rules for paper napkins because polite people pretend they don't notice what awful substitutes they are for the real thing.