DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have always been taught to leave your napkin loosely on the table when you got up or were done with your meal, as only lower classes folded their napkins. My girlfriend, who is of similar upbringing, insists that napkins should be folded. Which is correct?
GENTLE READER: In this apparently upper-class upbringing, was either of you taught the importance of context? (Or that referring to the “lower classes” is – well, déclassé? When used to mean that rich people have manners and poor people don’t, it is also inaccurate.) You are both correct or incorrect, depending on the circumstances.
Among those happy few who use cloth napkins routinely, even fewer are quite fortunate enough to have them laundered every day. It was always thus, which is why those lovely old monogrammed silver napkin rings exist to identify each diner’s napkin for the next meal. Therefore at family meals, the napkins are neatly folded, including by houseguests.
This is not true for one-occasion meals, such as at parties or restaurants, which is why Miss Manners is bewildered when magazines show formal dinner tables set with napkin rings. Does that mean the guests are never going home – or at least not until laundry day?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter-in-law has just asked me to give her a baby shower. She has also sent me a list of those she would like to attend and the ones she does not want to attend, specifically my oldest daughter.
Does any of this seem a little rude? Pretentious? Am I overreacting?
GENTLE READER: Rude? To tell you to honor her and snub your daughter?
Well, yes. Miss Manners suggests telling her that you are flattered at her selecting you, rather than waiting for one of her friends to suggest a shower, but that unfortunately, it is considered very bad manners to give showers for one’s relatives.