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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Decorated dining table is an invitation to sit

By Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a shared living room/dining space, and a separate breakfast table off my kitchen. However, my formal dining table is always set, but rarely used.

I was always taught to never seat yourselves at a formal set table if the meal is not being served there. Every Christmas, I elaborately decorate this table with fancy china, glassware and fragile decorations, only to have guests pull out a chair and put down their libations, keys, etc.

Is it proper for guests to sit there?

GENTLE READER: Are you under the impression that it is proper to set your table and then sneer at your guests for not realizing that you don’t consider them important enough to sit there? What on earth is this display supposed to be for?

Now why they feel it necessary to put their keys on the table is another question. Miss Manners supposes that your inhospitable attitude is sufficiently apparent that they want to be able to make a quick getaway. Merry Christmas.


DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am attending an alumni event for a debate society that has a dress code requiring men to at least wear a suit and tie of some sort. My wife and a fellow alumni friend say I will be overdressed in a tuxedo.

I say this is a formal anniversary alumni meeting, and while a tuxedo is not required, it is not overdressed. When is wearing a tuxedo a breach of etiquette in a setting where suits are the norm?

GENTLE READER: Violating the dress code is a breach of etiquette, whether you do so with royal robes, pajamas or something in between. If anything, Miss Manners considers overdressing worse than underdressing, as the latter may have the excuse of not having the proper clothes.


DEAR MISS MANNERS: Every Christmas I get cards that are decorated with glitter from some of my friends. The amount ranges from a little to a lot, but whatever the amount, some of it always gets on the table where I open the cards, on objects on the table, on my clothing, on the carpet, and of course on my hands. I try to clean it up as well as I can, but weeks later I still find little bits of glitter here and there in my apartment.

It annoys me so much that I wish it were discouraged by a rule of etiquette and generally thought to be inconsiderate to send someone a card covered with glitter.

I know that’s wishful thinking, and I can imagine people exclaiming, “Nobody’s going to tell me what kind of cards I can send,” but maybe they can be gently encouraged to consider the effects on the recipients of cards with glitter when they’re making their choices in the card shop.

GENTLE READER: Yes, it is annoying, but not to the point where Miss Manners accepts your pugilistic hypothetical attitude on the part of the sender (“Nobody is going to tell ME …”). Rather she imagines their thinking, “Oh. I thought it was pretty.”

So while she is happy to pass on your complaint, she is resigned to associating the season with extra duty for the vacuum cleaner.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)