DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I had a small wedding 20 years ago. Growing up, my grandmother would have holiday dinners for us on beautiful China. I want to do the same for my two children, so I worked and bought my own China. My problem is that I have to host Christmas dinner for my husband’s family. There are so many of them that my children don’t get to sit at the main table with the China, and every year someone breaks or chips some of it, and I just want to cry. How should I handle this?
GENTLE READER: How did your grandmother handle it? By keeping a worried eye on her guests and wincing, if not running out of the room in tears,at the first crack of her china?
If so, Miss Manners doubts that you would remember those dinners fondly. Nor will your children or guests if you are that nervous.
Your mentioning your wedding, for which you presumably did not receive such china, and your use of that uppercase “C’’ both suggest that you have made something of a fetish item of what are, after all, dishes. In that case, it might be best to leave them in the cupboard and hope that your children will use them when you are gone.
It would be better still to learn to accept the fact that when things are used, some breakage will occur. China is replaceable; memorable conviviality is not.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How soon can I leave an informal Christmas party?
GENTLE READER: Apparently not soon enough, or you wouldn’t be asking.
Miss Manners’s formula is to leave between the time that your host will wonder why you are going, and before the time that your host will wonder when you are going.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I think I was the recipient of rude behavior, but since the possible offense occurred in the house of a very wealthy married couple, I’m not sure. Maybe the rich truly are different.
I attended a black-tie Christmas party at their home where expensive champagne was served before dinner and a variety of expensive wines were served with dinner.
Champagne gives me heartburn, and I don’t care for wine, so I opted for a beer. The hostess became upset that I was ruining the ambience of the room, but a few guests came to my rescue, and she relented as long as I drank the offending brew in a glass. However, when it came time to eat, she said, “There’s no way you’re bringing beer to my dinner table.” I drank water with my food.
I’m a my-house-is-your-house kind of guy, especially at Christmas. But it was her home and her party. Was her behavior inappropriate, or am I disturbed over nothing?
GENTLE READER: Your rich hosts do not strike Miss Manners as being so different from you. You both made ugly fusses over nothing.
Apparently you not only requested a drink that was not being offered, but pushed the point to where it involved other guests. That is not my-house-is-your-house; it is your-house-is-my-restaurant.
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