DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am putting together a baby-shower luncheon for a co-worker. It is a second baby and more of a get-together than a full-fledged shower. They call it a "sprinkle" -- small gifts second time around. Around 10 people.
How do I invite people to a lunch and also inform them they have to pay for their own lunch?
GENTLE READER: If Miss Manners may say so, "sprinkle" is an unfortunate term for an occasion having to do with an infant. Yet she thoroughly approves of efforts to seek refuge from the now-common shower that is more of a deluge. Such events -- and she is including showers for first babies as well as wedding showers -- have turned from light-hearted events to pretentious ones with serious outlays of money.
So by all means have an informal little get-together with whoever among you colleagues cares to participate. You are not inviting them, but merely organizing the event, so it should be phrased as "Some of us are taking Tabitha out to lunch to celebrate. Would you like to join us?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it incorrect etiquette to touch your teeth to the tines of a fork, or to the body of a spoon, while eating?
GENTLE READER: Yes, and it is incorrect for other diners to wince if this is done, but they plead to Miss Manners that they can't help it. You can.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the past five years, I have established a successful freelance writing business, relying on referrals, networking and hours of cold calls to connect with new clients. Now, an acquaintance of mine has become a freelance writer, and she asked me to "get her on her feet" by providing her with my entire list of client contacts!
My business is built on those relationships, and I wouldn't give that list to my own mother if she asked. If this acquaintance were a good writer, I might give her one or two names to get her started -- but she's not, and I'm concerned that referring her to my clients will damage my own reputation.
How can I politely decline her request? She keeps asking, and I'm running out of ways to put it off.
GENTLE READER: How about "I wouldn't give that list to my own mother if she asked"? Or perhaps a gentler, "Sorry, but that's a confidential business matter I don't share with anyone."
It strikes Miss Manners that you have a perfectly valid reason that you can easily explain politely -- provided you leave out the part about what a bad writer your acquaintance is.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My stepson is estranged from his father, and I want to include him in the obit but not list him as his son. May I do this? However, I want to list my children from another marriage but not indicate they are stepchildren. Please advise. This is a ticklish subject.
GENTLE READER: An attempt to have your husband disown his son posthumously strikes Miss Manners as outrageous, and no reputable news outlet will accept it. In contrast, frankly including stepchildren is perfectly acceptable. If you are talking about posting your own notice, you can fudge it by grouping them all, regardless of the emotional ties, as his survivors.