DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a family member who absolutely needs his morning cup of coffee the first thing in the morning after getting up. So he crawls out of bed and heads straight to the kitchen in his "tighty whities" and undershirt.
Then he holds conversation in a kitchen with a lot of windows, which other family members are embarrassed by, and concerned that fellow neighbors can see in or passers-by on the street when they are walking through our neighborhood. How can we solve this issue?
GENTLE READER: A coffee maker in the bedroom? Window shades? Everyone else in the family leading him out of the kitchen to converse?
Miss Manners suspects that what you really want from her is a way to teach your relative modesty. But she gathers from his coffee habit that he is a grown-up, and she supposes that the family has had no success arguing its own embarrassment.
For him to be embarrassed enough to go put on a robe, for goodness' sake, there has to be someone whose disapproval would embarrass him. The neighbors? The police?
It might be easier to find a nice, gauzy material that will let in the light but blur the view and nail it over the windows.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are a fairly successful couple who both work and have a wide range of friends. For the past few years, our businesses have slowed, as has our income. And we have a 5-year-old child. All of this to say -- we aren't as wealthy as we once were and so hosting parties is out of the question.
Here's the challenge: We have friends, a married couple with no children, who are on the financial upswing, who have moved into a lovely new townhouse and, for the last few years have been hosting many parties in their home. There's the annual New Year's Day brunch, the annual Halloween Brunch, the make new acquaintances seated dinner party, the annual Fourth of July party and so on ... YIKES! We feel so far behind on reciprocating that it's becoming uncomfortable.
GENTLE READER: You should be uncomfortable. But not, Miss Manners hastens to add, in financial ruin. You do owe a return on hospitality you have accepted, but only within your means.
Shoving a bottle of wine at your hosts when you are a guest will not do it. You must entertain them. In your own way, not theirs.
Two of the most chic forms of entertainment are ridiculously cheap: tea parties (tea, bread, cucumbers, cookies) and midnight suppers (scrambled eggs, salad) after an event that people were already attending (and so bought their own tickets), such as theater or opera. Less formally, there is family supper, ordinary (as opposed to New Year's Day) brunch, and watching a game or rented movies with snacks.
People just like to go out once in a while, and they like going to other people's houses. Most of all, they like the feeling that their friends want to see them enough to make an effort, beyond showing up for food and fun whenever others make the effort.