Miss Manners: Invitation to royal party poses dilemma for guest

August 14, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am invited to a birthday for an immediate member of a foreign royal family at their palace. I live in the United States and will be flying to that country. A mutual friend, who will likely find out that I am there or coming, may or may not have also been invited to the birthday.

Do I mention this in advance of her discovering that I’m in her city? I’ve never been to her city without telling her in advance, so keeping this “secret” feels quite deceptive to me.

I know she will be hurt if she hasn’t been invited - - and more hurt if I don’t say something to her. Yet I don’t want to put the family in the awkward position of feeling they need to invite our mutual friend. How do you suggest I best handle this situation?

GENTLE READER: It does not strike Miss Manners as being your situation, unless you make it so by causing your friend to think that you are snubbing her because she did not make the royal guest list. This would be even more true if you ran into her at the party, when any belated friendliness would be taken as a result of her having made the cut after all.

You do not say which country is in question, but royal guest lists (which, by the way, rarely remain secret and may even be released by the palace) are not usually made haphazardly. Whatever reason there was for inviting or not inviting your friend is between them. For all you know, she might hang out at the palace all the time, but not mention it to you for fear of making you feel left out.

Just write her that you will be visiting because of the party, but hope to spend time with her. The point is that you are friends, not competitors for royal attention.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When you are finished with your napkin, do you put it on the table or on the seat in a restaurant?

Mine had barbecue sauce on it, and I put it on the table. My friend said it should have been put on the seat, but that would have put the sauce on the seat. This was not a four-star restaurant.

GENTLE READER: Nor was it a cloth napkin, Miss Manners guesses — and a paper napkin soaked with barbecue sauce is a useless menace. If there is table service, you ask for a fresh one, and if not, you get up to get one yourself, depositing the wet one in the trash.

Cloth napkins are properly placed on the table at the end of a meal, and on the chair only if one leaves the table with the intention of returning. But even Miss Manners would suspend this rather than have to leave the restaurant with a big red spot on the back of her skirt.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it proper etiquette to ask for presents when you are being married again (second, third or fourth marriage)?

GENTLE READER: No, and not for the first, either. Begging is sometimes a necessity for the destitute; it is never a social ritual.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2011, by Judith Martin

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