DEAR MISS MANNERS: According to the etiquette books when I was much younger (I'm now 87), the proper way for passing the serving dishes at a family-style meal was from the right to the left. Just recently I have been told by some in the younger generation that the "rules" have changed and now the correct direction for passing is from the left to the right. Am I really that old-fashioned?
GENTLE READER: Or is the etiquette business really that crazy?
Do we etiquetteers have nothing better to do than to reverse perfectly good rules for the sake of confusing those few people who have bothered to learn them?
Platters are passed from right to left because most people are right handed and find it convenient to hold the plate in the left hand while using the right hand to serve themselves food. Those who are left-handed can reach over with the right hand (thus having to experience how awkward it is to have food approaching from the wrong side) and transfer the platter to the right.
Meanwhile, Miss Manners advises you not to take unauthorized advice from etiquette-imposters of whatever age.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I bought an older home one year ago. We love our house, but it needs a lot of work. We both work full time, and I am in school. Therefore, the house isn't in the shape we hoped it would be after one year.
My in-laws keep pestering us about why they haven't been invited to our home. They bring it up constantly. "Well, if we had SEEN the house by now..." "Well, since we haven't been invited over yet..."
It's gotten to the point that they've blatantly invited themselves over. "If we come to town to do X, is it all right if we just stop by?"
I was taught growing up that you never invite yourself to anything. Am I wrong? On the flip side, was it rude of me to have not invited them to our house sooner? It's been a mess and I'm embarrassed to have people see it this way.
So I finally broke down and decided to have a party with family and a few close friends. I sent out 20 or so invitations. I have received almost NO RSVPs! What's the protocol when no one RSVPs? We have a limited budget and don't want to waste a lot of money on people who don't show up. But we don't want the embarrassment of not having enough food if everyone on our list shows up.
GENTLE READER: Your complaint seems to be that some prospective guests issue their own invitations and others refuse to issue answers to your invitations. But Miss Manners has a quarrel with the parallelism.
Do you really not see the difference between banning your in-laws from your house for a year and not feeling ready to invite friends to a party?
It is little wonder that your husband's parents are hurt at never having been allowed into his and your house -- as if it mattered how fixed up the place was. Miss Manners commends them for resorting only to mild hinting.
And now you want to entertain those ill-mannered friends of yours. So you will have to do what your in-laws are doing -- stifle your annoyance at their neglect and telephone to voice the hope that you will see them.