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

Reusing Cloth Napkins for a Week

DEAR MISS MANNERS: During our weeklong visit, our dear hosts subjected us to one of their quirks I can’t abide by. They issued each of us a cloth napkin to be used for the week. Granted, we were not eating ribs, but it still just seemed unsanitary.

GENTLE READER: Why? What else were they being used for?

Miss Manners is sorry to tell you, but saving a cloth napkin for up to a week is not only acceptable, it comes with accessories. That is the purpose of those round silver things that are too small to be bracelets. They are napkin rings. For frequent guests, Miss Manners even gets them monogrammed -- an honor, she assures you.

However, if you feel that yours is being overused to the point of being ineffective, graciously blame it on yourself. “I am afraid I over-enjoyed my dinner last night and sorely abused my napkin. I wonder if I might have a fresh one tonight. And I will try to take better care of it.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received a bachelor’s degree in art history and am currently finishing up a master’s in another art-related field. For many years, I have often had to put up with people’s rude comments regarding my career choice.

When I tell people what degree I am pursuing, I have received responses such as (literally) “So, you want to live in a box for the rest of your life?”, “So, you want to be poor?”, “So, you want to starve?” Unfortunately, they are often not saying this in jest, and will continue to demean my profession for several minutes.

I try to make a joke out of it and direct the conversation elsewhere, but I am losing patience. Any suggestions for how to avoid this ugly situation or deal with it appropriately are appreciated.

GENTLE READER: “Yes, I suppose that’s a possibility, but at least I will live poor and starving in a beautifully decorated box.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a toddler and an almost-1-year old. The toddler does pretty well nowadays when we eat out at restaurants, but the infant tends to spill a lot of food on the floor.

I don’t want people to think I am fine with letting my kids make a big mess for other people to clean up, so usually at the end of our meal, I get down on the floor and clean up the baby’s crumbs. I have had times in which the restaurant owners seemed appalled that we are cleaning up after ourselves and I sort of understand that (it’s probably not a good look to the other customers). What is the most polite approach for handling kid messes in public?

GENTLE READER: Small messes should be picked up as they happen. For larger ones, a reasonable effort should be made.

But much like the wallet reach when one is fairly certain that one’s restaurant companion is paying, the intent is generally more appreciated than the result. Similarly, Miss Manners suggests that the attempt to clean up should be genuine, but graciously retractable if the other party objects strongly enough.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)