DEAR MISS MANNERS: We were at dinner last evening and one in our party asked if they had any glasses for red wine. The waitress said they only had one style of wine glasses. Is it bad manners to use the same type of glass for both white and red wines?
GENTLE READER: You will be shocked to hear that etiquette does not mandate the use of highly specialized implements at table.
"What?" (Miss Manners hears you reacting). "Aren't you the people who invented the terrapin fork and the claret glass? Aren't you the folks who make others feel stupid for not knowing which to use?"
Well, yes and no. We did invent all that stuff, in a late Victorian frenzy of consumerism. At the same time we maintain, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, that we value simplicity more than a pompous insistence on over-specialization. So while we not only distinguish between glasses for red and white wine, but also recognize that red Burgundy, white Burgundy and claret also have their special glasses, we do not consider it bad manners to use an all-purpose wine glass. On the contrary, we consider it bad manners to make others feel stupid for not possessing this equipment or knowledge.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As the mother of the bride, what are my responsibilities? And how should I dress? I don't like any "mother of the bride" dresses that I have seen, but I want to look young and beautiful, too.
GENTLE READER: There is not much Miss Manners can do to make you young and beautiful, unless you would settle for the beauty that comes from within as a result of knowing that you are perfectly behaved. Somehow she doesn't think that is what you have in mind.
She can, however, relieve your anxiety by assuring you that there is no such thing as a "mother of the bride" uniform.
Mind you, she does not pretend not to know what you mean: lace in some nursery color, sprinkled with tiny sparkles and worked into a formidable shape unknown in nature. For reasons best known to themselves, many ladies do wear such outfits at their daughters' weddings.
Etiquette does not bear the responsibility, however. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not even mandate that there be matching mommies, or insist that the mothers be coordinated with the flower arrangements. It presumes that people who are old enough to have marriageable children know how to dress themselves not only with taste, but in keeping with the occasion, the degree of formality and the time of day. In regard to a wedding, this means no black or white and nothing so outrageous as to undercut the solemnity of the ceremony.
If, after a treasure hunt with these instructions in mind, you have any energy left, you could tend to such responsibilities as charming the bridegroom's relatives, making sure the arrangements take into account the comfort and pleasure of the wedding guests, and -- oh, yes -- explaining the meaning of marriage to your daughter.