DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is putting on a birthday party for me. I will be turning 57.
His sister has taken up the art of hand sculpting huge birthday cakes. She has been mastering the art of making huge, 3-foot-tall penises. She recently presented one to her mother-in-law for her birthday.
Needless to say, it didn't go over very well. She is very proud of herself and takes this cake-making business seriously. I have just found out that my husband has ordered a cake from her for my birthday.
I think she is grotesque, rude and out of line with these cakes. I am mortified that she might make the same penis cake for me.
How should I react? With disgust and asking her to leave? Or thanking her and putting a large garbage bag over it and offering it to her to take home?
I have told my husband I would be totally offended if I was presented with a cake like that as a surprise. He says don't worry about it. I'm sure she won't do it. But I know she will.
Please tell me what to say.
GENTLE READER: Say "Thank you," whisk it into the kitchen, slice it in small pieces and serve it on a platter. Just please don't describe the slicing to Miss Manners.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am 21 years old, and this summer I will be matriculating into medical school. As such, I find myself among the Southern landed gentry, many of my classmates being the sons of doctors or otherwise coming from wealthy families.
As a graduating gift, my grandparents have been generous enough to purchase me my own personalized stationery. But before I do so, I want to make sure that I am ordering what is appropriate and in good taste, since I will probably not be able to afford another copperplate for some time. I have decided that I want an embossed heading, but I am unsure as to what it should include.
Please note that this stationery would be used for personal correspondence only. Furthermore, I will be attending residency to further my education, and my scholarship for medical school is through the Army, so I will not have a permanent address for some time.
GENTLE READER: That you plan to write real letters, on paper with ink, delights Miss Manners, who thought she was the only one left doing this. The key question concerning taste is whom you will be writing.
You will be shown all sorts of fanciful colors and styles, and urged to make your choice only on the basis of self expression, even if it results in turquoise paper with yellow lettering.
That would be all very well if you were to use the paper for little notes to close friends, but that function has been taken over by e-mail and texting. Miss Manners is guessing that you will be reserving it for serious letters of thanks, congratulations and condolences.
Serious paper is white or ecru, with engraving in black, gray or dark blue. It can be headed by one's full name (traditionally including honorific, which is not properly used on business paper) with or without an address, or by a monogram.
Because your address and title will change, a monogram would be the most enduring.