DEAR MISS MANNERS: I decided I wanted to spend a milestone birthday in the company of some friends. I invited each attendee via individual email, booked a private room in my favorite restaurant and planned a menu that all enjoyed. It was a merry occasion. The wine flowed.
Upon the evening’s conclusion, friends asked how much “their end” was, and I politely declined, assuring them that it was my pleasure and that I was happily footing the entire bill. There was no expectation of gifts (few attendees brought any).
May I ask whether you in any way perceive my actions — throwing what you criticize as a “selfie party” — to have been in bad taste?
GENTLE READER: On the contrary, Miss Manners congratulates you for having violated the horrid customs that now characterize the selfie party: You did not expect your guests to pay for the privilege of honoring you. You planned the menu for their pleasure, not just to indulge in your favorites without regard to what they might enjoy. And evidently you did not broadcast expectations of presents that you hoped to receive.
In fact, you seem to have harbored the wish that your guests actually would enjoy themselves, rather than that they simply pay you obeisance. That such travesties of hospitality are normal now is evidenced in the surprised reaction on the part of your guests.
Comfort for the help
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My cleaning lady, who has come to us twice a month for several years, is a nice lady, though our relationship is not particularly cozy. We exchange pleasantries when she arrives, and then I stay out of her way. (Honestly, I’ve never quite become comfortable with the elitist notion of someone else cleaning my toilets!)
For the past few months her mother has been seriously ill and hospitalized. Before each cleaning I ask after her mother’s condition, and she tells me in some detail. She is clearly very tired, stressed and sad.
I would love to do something nice for her but don’t know what would be appropriate. She’s not yet “bereaved,” so those usual gestures — flowers, a note of sympathy — don’t seem appropriate. But I would like to brighten her day a bit and give her something she could use or that would bring cheer. Would a small gift be appropriate? A paid week off? I’m at a loss.
GENTLE READER: No, you’re not. It just took you a moment to come up with the right answer. Surely there is nothing that a tired, stressed and sad person could use as much as a week off with pay. Miss Manners commends you for your graciousness in offering that.
Meat for vegetarians
DEAR MISS MANNERS: If you are invited to a potluck party and you know the hosting couple have been vegetarian for two years, is it acceptable to bring a dish that contains meat?
GENTLE READER: No, but why would you even consider doing so? For an easy-to-answer query, Miss Manners finds this disturbing.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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