DEAR MISS MANNERS: While touring real estate open houses, a number of the dining rooms are set as if awaiting guests. Now I have a number of friends who have started this practice as decor.
Although they are not having dinner guests (and seldom use their dining room), there are placemats or table settings left out at all times. They sometimes continue this look into the kitchen dinette or snack bar.
Is it proper to leave out your linens and dishes out as decor? It does add color to the table, but I feel that you also are collecting dust on items that might be used for dinner service at a later date.
GENTLE READER: Not only that, but it hurries any polite visitors out, on the assumption that you are getting ready for dinner, probably on behalf of more favored guests than themselves. Maybe that's the idea.
What it says to the family is even worse: We don't have time to sit down with you, and we certainly wouldn't use the good things. But here's what it would look like if we did.
So Miss Manners' ruling is: No, a phantom table setting in a lived-in house is not polite to those not invited to eat. Besides, it is ludicrous.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I'm out to dinner with a friend and her husband (I am single), and he pulls out her chair, who pulls out mine? When, in the middle of a conversation, he gazes longingly into her eyes and tells her, "I love you," just where am I supposed to be looking?
As I'm sitting directly across the table and there's no one for me to converse with in the meantime, what is appropriate for me? She will usually respond to his declaration with a "Thank you."
The whole exchange seems very bizarre to me, as well as making me feel like I'm eavesdropping on a private conversation. Wouldn't it be more appropriate for them to do this exchange when they're alone, rather than put on a show for me?
Am I supposed to applaud? Or comment? Or nod approvingly? As he continues to put on airs to show me how sophisticated he is, I can only think of how uncomfortable they're making me. What's up with this?
GENTLE READER: Their marriage is on the rocks, is Miss Manners' guess. Since they could have cooed to their hearts' content simply by staying home, they were obviously in need of an audience. Or, more specifically, a rumor-squelcher.
In any case, these are not people with whom you should be dining. Funny how a small thing like helping his wife, but not you, with the chair is a harbinger of what is to follow.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to thank someone for the gift of a box of stationery? Does one write a note on the stationery received as a gift? Or does one write on other, perhaps less precious, paper? If the gift is a small box of note cards, for instance, art reproductions with eight cards in the box, is it reasonable to use one of them to reply to the giver? Or do you save them for other notes?
GENTLE READER: You use the first to thank the giver. Otherwise, Miss Manners fears, the praise you give the cards will backfire by suggesting that you are going to save them for more important correspondence.