DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 25-year-old living with my (usually wonderful) boyfriend of five years. He has recently lost a job, and in the few days following this job loss, he has been a little more needy than normal. When I am home from my job, he is usually following me around the house and asking for my company, which he says comforts him and makes him feel better.
I wish to politely remind him that while I am full of empathy for his grief and depression over losing a job (and thus losing a sense of meaning and a feeling of providing for me), I am not exactly a security blanket who is there to calm him at every moment, but I am in fact a partner who is dealing with issues of my own at work and does not need the added frustration of feeling that I am in charge of his every emotional need right now -- that I am a girlfriend, not a mother.
How can I politely inform him of my feelings without seeming uncaring?
GENTLE READER: You run a harsh household.
A few days of being at loose ends after being fired does not strike Miss Manners as unreasonable. Five wonderful years and you feel that less than a week of helping him deal with a major crisis would turn you into his mother?
However, you know what you can bear, and the gentleman should know that about you. Tell him as nicely as you can that you really do care, even though you are unable to spend extra time with him. It hasn't convinced Miss Manners, but perhaps you will have better luck with him.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am hosting a large party at my home. What do I do about hand towels in the powder room that my guests will be using? Because the nature of my uncertainty may be unclear to anyone at all experienced in these matters, let me be specific.
How many hand towels should there be? Are multiple guests to use the same towel? Are used towels at some point to be discarded into a hamper -- by the guest or host? Need the host concern himself with the order or hygiene of the hand towel(s) during the course of the party?
One would like to think that having attended many parties in one's life, one would have learned the answer to these questions from observation. One would like to think many things, and, unfortunately, I have no parties scheduled between now and mine.
GENTLE READER: One would like to think that guests washed their hands and dried them on the towels provided. However, Miss Manners has noticed a major disconnection between the obligations of providing enough little towels for the number of guests (and a small basket or other reciprocal in which used ones are discarded) and the number of bathroom-visiting guests who actually use them.
This is because, for reasons Miss Manners will never understand, the guest towel has become an untouchable totem. Personally, she cannot bring herself to endorse this to the extent of more practical hosts, who provide paper towels or a communal one of terry cloth. She suggests doing the right thing by putting out guest towels and hoping for the best.