DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have several friends who, in most ways, have good manners and consider themselves polite and refined. We all use cloth napkins, of course, when we dine at each others’ houses.
I was chagrined, however, to see that if they happen to sneeze during a meal at my house, they use the nicely starched and ironed napkins as a handkerchief, blowing their noses in them!
I am revolted by this, but feel uncomfortable asking them to refrain from doing so; nor am I inclined to place a box of tissues in the dining room in easy reach of the guests. What would you suggest?
GENTLE READER: Next time one of your well-mannered friends sneezes in the linen, give that person a fresh napkin. Miss Manners suggests this as the act of a good host, and therefore not one to be done with a grimace, or while holding the soiled napkin at arm’s length.
She may be vaguely aware that this will draw perhaps-unwelcome attention to the guest’s action, but that could never be your polite and refined intent.