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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Telling guests ‘Please don’t throw away my napkins’

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I frequently have guests over for cocktails, and usually serve the drinks with an appetizer or two. I always give my guests cloth cocktail napkins to use.

What I have been finding is that many of the younger guests dispose of their napkins in the garbage, rather than leaving them on their plates. (I don’t have the same issue of losing my dinner napkins; guests seem to understand those can be laundered and used again.)

I’m at a loss about what to do, since I don’t always catch the napkins going into the trash. Some of these napkins are quite expensive and are of a vintage where replacements are no longer available.

It seems to me it would be rude to announce to my guests that cloth napkins need not go in the garbage. That seems quite obvious to me. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this matter?

GENTLE READER: Hide the garbage can. At least until after the cocktail hour. That way, at least your guests will have to go through you before unwittingly throwing away your linens.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My child is the product of infertility treatments that involved donors. My husband and I are not ashamed of this, and have no problem acknowledging our child’s origin with those who need to know or those whom we choose to trust with the information.

Despite a careful selection process, my child was born with a stunning eye/hair color combination that would have been statistically difficult, if not impossible, for us to produce naturally. Acquaintances, and sometimes strangers, often remark upon the brilliance of my child’s features, followed immediately with a comment to the effect of, “How ever did you two produce a child who looks like THAT?”

If they have the gall to wait for a response past my look of incredulity, I often say, “Yes, well, sometimes those recessive genes win the evolutionary battle.”

This then frequently gives rise to further questions about my child’s heritage, demands to know which ancestors displayed the recessive traits, and half-remembered high school biology lectures.

Can you help me find a way to shut down this conversation politely? Miss Manners would not consider kindly the responses that have thus far occurred to me.

GENTLE READER: What these comments are suggesting is an insult to your own genes. Miss Manners permits you to address it politely as such, saying, “Aren’t we lucky to have produced a child that surpasses her parents’ raw materials?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to say thank you for receiving cash after the loss of a loved one?

GENTLE READER: Forgive Miss Manners, but she finds herself confounded by the question. Is the cash a form of condolence? Help for funereal costs? A gift to help ease your financial burden in general?

If accepted, it should be treated as any present would be, with a letter of thanks. But while it is no doubt kindly meant, this transfer of cash seems an odd practice. And one that certainly should never be solicited.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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