DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there a correct/proper time of day to use lighted candles on the dinner table?
GENTLE READER: Yes: after dark.
As Miss Manners recalls from the days before the invention of electricity (so unflattering to the complexion but, she supposes, otherwise useful), candles were a major household expense. Ever since, and even now, it has been considered pretentious to burn candles when their light is superfluous.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: While I love my in-laws, I'm annoyed with their "selective nepotism."
They are the proud parents of five lovely boys, some of whom are married. When it comes to the holidays, birthdays or other monumental milestones, not all of their children are treated equally. Since entering the family, I have noticed them buying extravagant presents for other sons and their wives, while my husband and I are always the bottom of the barrel.
Another thing that really pushes my buttons is that my husband, of all of the boys, is the most thoughtful when it comes to his parents. He is always willing to help out and calls frequently to see how they are doing. I cannot say this is true of all of their sons and their significant others, for many of them do not give my in-laws the respect and attention they deserve.
I have noticed no correlation to price of the gift and the monetary neediness of the families receiving the gift. The more affluent couples are coming away with the biggest payoff. My husband and I do not want or need anything; however, it would be nice to have some equality across the board ... especially when it is well known what everyone else in the family is receiving.
When asked every year what we want or need, we have said that money would be best so we can sock it away in our savings. When it comes to gift-giving, we find ourselves with another useless gift that we don't want or need. We often find ourselves forced to spend gift cards we have no use for.
Why do you think not all of us are treated equally, and what, if anything, should we do? This issue hurts my feelings and makes me feel awful for my husband because it has to make him feel inferior.
GENTLE READER: Without being being given other examples of such favoritism, Miss Manners assumes that your complaint is solely about presents. In that case, mightn't their attitude about presents have something to do with yours?
You have made it known that you don't want or need anything that the parents might provide; you only want them to pay you, and you are checking to make sure you are not being cheated out of your share.
This may not be your in-laws' idea of holiday fun. Next year, if they ask you what you want, try saying, "Oh, I'm sure we'll love whatever you care to give us."
Incidentally, your statement that this "has to" make your husband feel inferior leads Miss Manners to believe that he -- who is demonstrably generous to his parents -- has not complained. Perhaps you should be more influenced by his attitude than his parents'.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)