DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I stay overnight in friends' and relatives' homes, I often find three to seven decorative pillows on the bed and pillow shams on the pillows. I usually look around for a chair to put the decorative pillows on or an open shelf in the closet. If there is no chair and no open space on the closet shelf, should I put them on the floor?
Can they ever be used? Are pillow shams removed from the pillows before using them? Sometimes additional pillows with just the usual pillowcases are underneath the ones with pillow shams and sometimes not. Some pillow shams are made from stiff brocade material, and I don't think I am supposed to use the pillow with the sham on.
All of these decisions are too much for me when I am sleepy and want to go to bed. Please give me the quick course on pillow etiquette.
GENTLE READER: The first rule is that guests should be able to find the bed under the pile of pillows. Miss Manners considers it the responsibility of the host to make it possible for them to go to sleep without first redecorating the room.
However, the polite guest who encounters a puffy mountain range is obliged to stay awake, sorting things out. The rule is to sleep only on pillows protected by pillowcases, wherever they may be found, and to toss the ones in pillow shams back on the bed in the morning so that no one will be able to detect where they spent the night.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Who enters and exits an elevator first, the lady or the gentleman? (Exiting, of course, seems to be governed by the practical principal that the person nearest the door leaves first.)
I understand that the social norm of "ladies first" governs many situations like this. However, I was once informed by a well-bred Southern lady that the gentleman always enters and exits first, because doing so is a step into the unknown and, in the event of mishap, the gentleman should be the one to take the fall, so to speak.
This makes sense to me in light of the historical development of social conventions. Unfortunately, when I have acted upon this theory and entered an elevator first, I have occasionally received the icy glare of the sort usually directed at boors.
GENTLE READER: A gentleman allows a lady to precede him into an elevator. For his own safety, as well as the lady's, Miss Manners acknowledges that a fastidious gentleman might check first to see that there is actually an elevator there, and not an empty shaft.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boss's daughter was getting married. I sent her a very expensive gift, but a few days before the wedding I was fired for no reason. The daughter kept the gift rather than return it to me. Was this proper or should she have returned it?
GENTLE READER: Only if she fired the bridegroom would she be required to return it. Or if he fired her.
Whatever your motivation, Miss Manners is afraid that your offering still counts as a wedding present, not a gesture to ingratiate yourself with your boss. Thus the only rule that applies is that presents must be returned if the wedding -- not your career -- is canceled.