DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I enjoy eating dinner with our children at home most nights. The children are generally charged with setting the table and clearing plates, and an issue has arisen relating to spoons.
I urge the children to include a spoon in the place setting, but then (perhaps unreasonably), I counsel against its use. This generates much eye-rolling from my husband, who believes that it is appropriate to use one's spoon to eat such things as peas that are difficult to eat with a fork.
My children have asked me to explain the point of putting a spoon on the table if they aren't going to be allowed to use it. I tell them they can use the spoon for their dessert, but that seems a less than satisfactory answer given that dessert is rarely part of our evening meals.
Should I tell them to stop including spoons in the place setting, or should I give in and allow them to use their spoons to eat their dinners? Or should I continue my unreasonable practice of insisting on spoons but not permitting their use?
GENTLE READER: When you figure out why you want a spoon on the table while prohibiting its use, be kind enough to explain your reasoning to Miss Manners. Makes no sense to her.
Not that she is siding with your husband. Grown-ups eat their main courses with forks and knives, which she supposes he would do if the spoon were not lying around being useless.
In spite of its mean reputation, etiquette does not lay such traps. A correctly set table contains exactly the implements with which to eat the food that will be served, and places them in the order (outside to inside on both sides of the plate) in which they are to be used.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have several lovely pieces of jewelry, including a very expensive watch, given to me by my ex-husband during happier times. What do I do now?
GENTLE READER: Enjoy them as best you can, whether that means wearing them or selling them or tossing them. Broken engagements require the return of valuable love tokens, as Miss Manners keeps trying to persuade the broken-hearted. Broken marriages, however, do not.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have lost several friends this year and wonder how to write a note on my holiday cards for the surviving spouses. I know that they will not have happy holidays this year, so it seems inappropriate to wish that for them.
How can I express that I am thinking of them at a time of year that is sure to be sad when my card shows my happy family?
GENTLE READER: Presuming that you wrote your condolences at the time of the death, the mere sight of your pleasant-looking family portrait should not be offensive. Nor is it incompatible with your writing to the bereaved that you are thinking of them. You would hardly want to send them sad faces.
But Miss Manners agrees that if the picture or the greeting on your card is jolly or jokey, it should not be sent. A serious card, or simply a note on your writing paper, would be the way to show that you have not forgotten.