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Miss Manners: Announcements still not invoices

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it poor etiquette to send family members college graduation announcements for your daughter, when they have sent their children’s graduation announcements and you did not send a gift (for lack of money)?

I am sending them out because we are proud of her, not for her to receive a gift.

GENTLE READER: Did you congratulate those graduates, or did you ignore their announcements? When someone announces a happy occasion, you are supposed to offer them your good wishes.

Announcements are not invoices, as Miss Manners keeps trying to make people understand. There is no need to send presents unless you particularly want to. And you should not presume that your relatives had any different motives than the ones you claim for yourself.

But if you make no response at all, as is sadly often the case nowadays – thinking that if you needn’t send a present, you have no other obligations – then you have bought into the idea that announcements are made only for material gain. In that case, it would be disingenuous for you to send them.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am lucky enough to be one of a group of women who get together monthly to share conversation and a meal.

When we meet at my house, I enjoy setting a nice table, and I use cloth napkins: some new, and some inherited from my mother, grandmother and even great-grandmother. More than once, however, I have had a guest say, “Oh, we need napkins,” and rush off to the kitchen. When they can’t find paper ones, they tear off a number of paper towels to bring to the table.

This is more than a little aggravating. While I don’t want to correct a guest, I have found myself saying, “Look, napkins, right by your plates.” At which point they tell me they don’t want to get those nice napkins dirty.

Occasionally, I have countered that the napkins have been around for several generations, so there’s probably not a stain they haven’t survived quite nicely. I’ve also pointed out how ecologically sound cloth napkins are. However, after dinner is over, I collect a lot of wadded-up, rather nasty paper towels, and an unused set of napkins.

Is there a way, short of hiding the paper towels, to make guests use my napkins, which exist solely to become dirty? Or should I resign myself to the seemingly inevitable and set a paper towel roll on the table?

GENTLE READER: The galling part is that they think they are doing you a favor by sabotaging your arrangements. And that even by defying your expressly stated wishes, they are being both modest and considerate.

“Oh, don’t make yourself into a drudge by trying to impress us,” they are, in effect, saying. And incidentally, they are defending themselves against presumed charges of running less fastidious households.

As these ladies come often, Miss Manners authorizes you to be more explicit. “I’m sorry if you don’t approve of the way I do things,” you could say. “It gives me pleasure to use my nice things, and I hope you will indulge me. It doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate other ways of doing things.”

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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