DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife is training for a marathon. She's very athletic, a beautiful woman and a mother of five who keeps herself fit through running. She is planning on competing in a marathon out of town, and going with her sister and her sister's two adult children. Our children will still be in school, so I will be staying home.
What my wife has proposed is that in order to save money, she would share a hotel room with her sister and her sister's two children.
My concern is that one of these grown children is a 22-year-old male. I wouldn't call myself a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe that it is improper for my wife to share a hotel room with an adult male, even if he is her nephew. My wife tells me that if she can't share the costs of the hotel, she won't be able to live her dream of running a marathon. "And besides," she says, "he's my nephew...."
My argument is that he may be her nephew, but he's still a grown man. Do you have any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: Yes: that you tell her that you love and admire her, wish her luck, assure her that everything at home will be fine, and ask her to give your love to her relatives.
Meanwhile, you have given Miss Manners an unpleasant time of it, trying to think what you imagine could be improper.
It can't be what the neighbors will think, because they will be in a hotel with transient neighbors. And -- please! -- it is surely not that you think your nephew might be overcome with incestuous lust for his aunt, despite the presence of his mother and sister, or that your hitherto blameless wife will betray you and your children because of the proximity of her nephew, not to mention her sister and her niece.
So why don't we both stop thinking along these lines and hope that she wins the marathon?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A now-deceased friend of mine once did a quite large, lovely watercolor of me, recently sent by her surviving husband. I really like the picture but feel it's somewhat unseemly to display a portrait of myself in my own home. If I had a spouse or children, I could justify its presence by reasoning it's there for them to look at. Alas, no such luck.
Are there any rules or traditions about displaying likenesses of one's self? I'm thinking I might be able to rationalize that it's there to keep my dog company when I'm at work.
GENTLE READER: Not bad. Or you could explain that you value it as a reminder of your late friend.
But you do not actually need an explanation. You asked Miss Manners about displaying "likenesses," but the traditional rule made a finicky distinction between paintings, which can be displayed in the public rooms, and photographs, which belong in the private ones. Artistic photographers are welcome to object.