Advice Columns

Miss Manners: A solution to the guest towel dilemma

Q: In my home, I have for a long time believed that our guest bathroom should have a tray with decorative folded paper napkins for guests to dry their hands; however, rarely do our guests use those paper napkins. This leads me to believe that many guests are using the same one or two cloth towels to dry their hands.

In my opinion, I am offering a far more sanitary option to our guests by having the tray of paper napkins available to them, next to the sink. These decorative napkins are the same size as dinner napkins. I would be most appreciative if you would give me your thoughts and advice as to whether I am correct or wrong to expect our guests (at dinner parties, rather than overnight guests) to use the paper napkins provided.

A: Little as Miss Manners cares to imagine what your guests are doing in your guest bathroom, she pictures them with dripping hands, reaching for whatever is nearby. If you don’t want them to use cloth towels, don’t have them there.

Q: At a social event at my children’s school, I was standing and talking with a parent I know, when another parent I have met before walked up, greeted the parent I was speaking with and continued talking with her without even acknowledging me. I felt very uncomfortable. This is not the first time this has happened. How does one handle a situation like this?

A: By politely intervening on your own behalf. At an appropriate pause in conversation, firmly stick out a hand and say, “I do believe we have already met, but I just wanted to reintroduce myself. There are so many people at these events, it is sometimes hard to keep track.”

Miss Manners suggests that you practice this sentence and gesture to make sure that it has the right amount of firmness — without seeming petulant or punitive. She is sorry to say that it sounds as if you will have ample opportunity.

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,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.