Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Lipstick Vs. Cloth Napkins

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I invite one of our out-of-town friends for dinner, which we do two or three times a year, we always use cloth napkins that go with the tablecloth. Our friend always arrives wearing a thick layer of very bright red lipstick. By the end of dinner, her napkin is covered in lipstick, which is hard to clean. Should we give everyone at the table paper napkins, buy black napkins, or just accept the time spent scrubbing out the lipstick? My husband thinks I am being whiny, but he doesn’t scrub the napkins, although he does a lot of the cooking.

GENTLE READER: There is a reason that restaurants and catering businesses generally use white cloth napkins: They are easier to clean and sanitize with bleach. Miss Manners is not the household hints department, but that sounds reasonable to her.

Paper napkins are flimsy, and black napkins would look strange in contrast to a light-colored tablecloth. They also betray your obvious contempt for a brightly colored lip.

However, if you find yourself still scrubbing and your husband won’t help, it is far better form to accept the loss of the napkin over that of the friend.