Advice Columns

Miss Manners: No formula can reveal engagement ring’s cost

Q: How much of your yearly salary should be spent on an engagement ring?

A: Having been privy to a conversation among some young male economists about the cost-benefit relationship of an engagement ring (the benefit being the amount of love inspired by the size of the diamond), Miss Manners can assure you that any formula is as foolish as it is distasteful.

Q: Our book club selects books to read in the following way: The person whose turn it is to host suggests two or three choices, and we vote on them.

On several occasions, members have proposed, and we have selected, books by friends or acquaintances. Sometimes a member even suggests that the author attend the meeting at which we discuss the book.

This feels very awkward to me. I feel that the books should be chosen on merit alone, and that this criterion is receding into the background. Sometimes I think the member proposing the book is doing so with an eye to increasing sales. (Some of these books are self-published and are “struggling to find an audience,” shall we say.)

More important, we try to have frank discussions of the books we read for this group, and frank discussion seems much less likely when the author is a friend or acquaintance. Having the author actually present for the discussion seems even more likely to inhibit our discussion.

What is your view of the matter? And how can I delicately explain my position to the group?

A: Suggesting to the group that you avoid authors known by members of the group, as it will inhibit the kind of free discussion that the group prizes, should be easy enough. So long as you omit the part about selecting books only on quality, Miss Manners sees no impediment to raising the issue even with an author present.

Q: Regarding towels to be used in a powder room – what size towel is correct?

I have seen tiny towels the size of a washcloth, hand towels, printed paper towels and full-size bath towels. If I encounter a tiny towel and it becomes totally damp after I use it, should I tell the hostess?

My friend uses printed paper towels, but the dye often comes off on my hands. The only other towels in her powder room are very fancy and tied with a ribbon, so I assume they are not to be used at all. Help!

A: Oh, no, not the guest towel fetish again. Miss Manners hardly knows who is more ridiculous – guests who refuse to touch anything except paper, or hosts who imagine that cloth towels are untouchable works of art.

She can only advise you to do the best you can, leaving the wet towel in its used state without complaint.

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.