DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was taught that when you used a guest towel in a powder room or ?bathroom, you crumpled it and left it, obviously used, on the counter. Just as you leave a used ?linen napkin crumpled beside your plate after a meal.
After a visitor has used the facilities, rather than gathering up a ?couple of guest towels for the ?laundry, all the towels on display have to be laundered because you ?have no idea which one was ?used.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners has dreadful news for you. Brace yourself.
None of those towels was used. That's right. Those guests, whose hands you so warmly shook at their departure, probably didn't wash.
No, wait, that's not quite fair. Some may have used tissues they had in their pockets. Some might have used the toilet paper and then re-flushed. Some might have stayed in the bathroom until their hands air-dried.
But all of them were reared with the idea that a guest towel is a totem object that one must never touch, even when one happens to be a guest. They will use your own private bath towel, if they can find it, rather than sully a guest towel.
Why this is, Miss Manners cannot say. Even people with no discernable manners adhere to this peculiar belief. They would argue that this saves work for the hostess, as if she would welcome such an unsavory and unsanitary practice. Alas, as you point out, it doesn't even do that.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Next year my parents will have been married for 50 years. Quite an ?accomplishment except for the fact that for approximately 15 of those ?years, my father was having an affair of which my mother, myself and ?my siblings knew.
It is also possible that the affair continues to ?this day, but I think you will appreciate the fact that I don't want ?to ask or even know.
How should we handle the anniversary next year? I think it would be ?extremely hypocritical to celebrate it any way but perhaps very ?privately. All of us, my parents, siblings and spouses, know the ?history of the relationship and can perhaps at least celebrate its ?tenacity.
My sister, however, would like to have a bigger celebration ?of perhaps 100 people, some who know of the history, some who don't. ?I'm not comfortable with that as I really don't see that this is a ?marriage to celebrate. Affair or no, it's a miserable relationship.
GENTLE READER: Have either you or your sister attempted to find out what your mother would like? It is possible that she may feel that such a party is a public affirmation of the marriage. Or she may feel that there is not much to celebrate.
She should be given the choice. Your grim comfort will be that your father has forfeited the consideration of having a say in the matter.
But please don't tell Miss Manners that you can't ask your mother because you want to surprise her. Surely she has had enough surprises in this marriage.