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.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend calls at odd hours when I’m not home (but she thinks I am), and does not leave a message. She knows that I can look at my caller ID and see that she called.
When I don’t call her back, she is offended, and thinks I was at home and just didn’t answer her call. I think that since she did not leave a message, then that means she did not need or want to be called back. Am I in the wrong, or should she be leaving a message?
GENTLE READER: Your friend’s method has a one-sided efficiency: requesting a callback without the bothersome task of stating why.
Both parties must agree to this system for it to be effective. In negotiating this agreement, Miss Manners recommends that you warn your friend that without a message, you will not be able to determine the relative urgency of her calls -- and will therefore be forced to assume that they are all low.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have two very dear friends who do not know each other, but they both have the very annoying habit of correcting my “mistakes,” such as how I pronounce the name of a foreign city, official or other word.
We have all had at least 16 years of education in this country, in distinctly different areas of study, and yet they are the grammar and culture experts, it seems.
Neither is the kind of person who does this to undermine or to show off, but I am annoyed and offended by their compulsion to correct me. I would never do this to them, but on occasion they have been incorrect in what they said.
Do you have a polite and inoffensive way I could convey my displeasure with their behavior without “correcting” them?
GENTLE READER: Blame a third party. “Funny, I have never heard it pronounced bru-shetta, but I am sure you must be right. Let’s have our waiter settle it. He’s Italian.”
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)