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

Miss Manners: Let me tell you about these things called ‘tablecloths’

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I hosted an open house-style party. We offered a buffet with a variety of hors d’oeuvres, plus white and red wines. Before the party, we set up numerous small tables around our living room to ensure that guests would have a place to set their plates and wineglasses.

On all these little tables, plus on the coffee table, I set out numerous coasters to protect the furniture finish. The coasters were generously sized, easy to use and, I thought, quite obvious.

Our guests were mostly from my husband’s chess club. Much as I enjoy my husband’s friends, not a single one of them made use of the coasters I had set out. They almost seemed to be trying to AVOID using the coasters.

My husband also ignored (or avoided) the coaster near his own seat, so he wasn’t very helpful in setting an example.

All the guests seemed to be having a good time, which allowed me to sneak around putting wineglasses on coasters while the guests were distracted by conversation, wine and good food. Not ideal, plus this strategy required a lot of monitoring and repetition.

Next time, I will ask my husband to please try to set a better example for his friends, but assuming the disregard of coasters persists, is there any polite way to get our guests to use them?

GENTLE READER: The goal of a good hostess is to make guests feel welcome, which is hard to do while implicitly suggesting they are ruining your furniture.

Hard, but not impossible. You will be circulating to attend to your guests’ needs anyway, so insert the coaster when asking if they would like a refill.

But Miss Manners wonders if there is not a way to avoid the problem entirely, as you are in control of the furnishings (if not your husband). Would it not be possible to relocate the coffee table for the length of the party and cover the temporary tables?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it considered tacky to give an acquaintance a handmade gift?

My daughter and I are both crafters, and we gave a hand-thrown mug and a quilted “mug rug” to a mutual acquaintance whose business we both patronize.

We assumed she would use the items. But the next time I went into her store, our gifts were on a shelf, available for sale.

Am I off-base to think this was an insult? It seems wrong to accept a gift and then be so obvious about getting rid of it. Or were we in the wrong for assuming a person would like handcrafted items?

GENTLE READER: Handmade gifts are more thoughtful than store-bought ones, but that is not the question you should be asking, as no well-intentioned gift would justify an insulting response.

Should you take offense? Miss Manners is inclined to think not – that the insult was accidental rather than intentional. But she would think twice before bestowing presents on this entrepreneur again.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.