DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiancee and I received a lovely crystal vase as an engagement gift. I began to remove the small sticker with the manufacturer's name and a statement about the lead content when my fiancee chided me, insisting that one leaves such stickers on crystal, even on stemware, where the sticker would be much more prominent.
This seems strange to me, akin to leaving the price tag affixed to an item one has purchased. Would you kindly provide guidance?
GENTLE READER: It is strange, and it is like leaving on the price tag. The most bizarre part is that your fiancee is not the only person who has succumbed to what amounts to an etiquette myth.
Miss Manners can only think that the people who came up with this were frightened in childhood by the harsh warnings against removing tags on mattresses and electrical cords.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can a host ask overnight guests whether they had a good night, and how can guests respond, without turning this exchange into a report card on the accommodations or an intrusion on the guest's privacy?
"Good morning, how did you sleep?" would seem to be nothing more than a polite formality like, "How are you?" But, in fact, both parties understand it to be a one-directional inquiry about the hospitality, and the guest cannot politely respond without a formulaic, "Fine, thanks, and you?"
As a host, I feel driven to ask this question, and nothing less than a rave report assures me that there was nothing more I might have done to improve my guests' comfort.
But as a guest, I resent the question, especially from a bright-eyed eager host before I've had my coffee. Many of us have sleep problems that have nothing to do with how comfortable our quarters are, and we would prefer not to describe or explain them.
It's hard to come up with a convincing lie when one has had a difficult night, and if the guest is truthful, any problems mentioned will seem to reflect on the host. It would be like asking, "How did you like the food I cooked for you?" and the guest responding, "It was very tasty, but now I have gas, which always happens when I eat cheese, so it isn't your fault."
That's more information than anybody wants, and not very convincing or useful. Maybe you can suggest some more comfortable ways for hosts and guests to greet each other and talk about well-being after a night under the same roof.
GENTLE READER: Right. In fact, ugh.
Such information is only useful if a problem is easily fixable. You don't want your houseguests complaining that they found the wallpaper disturbing.
Therefore, the first part of the exchange should be conventional on the part of both host and guest. But after the "Did you sleep well?" the host may continue with, "Would you like another pillow or blanket?" Or the guest can introduce the problem by saying, "Fine, thank you. But I wonder if I might trouble you for a wash cloth."