DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is a simple card from your mother-in-law too much to ask for on Mother's Day? We see her, often hosting a brunch or dinner, or we take her out along with her significant other. We purchase cards from her grandchildren and from her children and give gifts.
Is it impolite of her not to bring a card for her daughter-in-law, the mother of her grandchildren, especially when we are hosting a Mother's Day brunch?
GENTLE READER-- Mother's Day has turned promiscuous, Miss Manners has noticed.
She had thought it was sweet when people began using the occasion to honor their stepmothers and other ladies who had shown them maternal attention. But now no lady past puberty is safe. Those who have lost children, or find they are unable to have them, report feeling wounded by apparently well-meaning strangers who wish them a happy Mother's Day.
Another development, without even the excuse of good intentions, is the transformation from honor that is volunteered to honor that is demanded, and from children honoring their mothers to mothers demanding honor, and not only from their children. That husbands join in is understandable: They have a lot for which to be grateful to the mothers of their children, and, besides, they have to supervise the children's contributions.
Otherwise, the generations should be honored in an upward direction. Yet, many mothers expect tribute from their mothers and other relatives, and here you are expecting it from your mother-in-law.
Is it too much to ask? Yes.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My very proper mother taught us that one does not display pictures of oneself in one's own home. I have always followed this rule and notice that all my relatives do as well, but I cannot find the rule written anywhere.
Over my long life, friends have occasionally given me pictures of myself, some in frames. I have never displayed them, but I worry that I have hurt my friends' feelings.
Is my mother's rule real and current? I actually like the rule, but want to do the right thing by my friends.
GENTLE READER: The rule is still in effect, but your mother forgot to point out the loopholes. There are enough of those to accommodate your gallery.
One is that you can properly display them in rooms that are considered somewhat private -- your bedroom, your study, and, by extension, a family room.
Another, on which Miss Manners expects to be challenged, is that a painted portrait is traditionally considered acceptable in the more public rooms, but photographs are not. She does not wish to argue against photography as an art, but let us say that photographs of you with the mayor or in your wedding clothes are best shown in the family's area.
Proper mothers are always right; but sometimes they need explaining.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Can I replace the salad fork for the dessert fork just for this one event?
GENTLE READER-- Sure, go ahead. Miss Manners will never tell, provided you promise not to tell anyone she condoned it.