Miss Manners: Scarf draped around the neck can hide errant stain

October 16, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It has always been my understanding that the purpose of a napkin in the lap is to prevent one from soiling one’s clothes should anything fall. Unfortunately for me, as a well-endowed woman, things that fall from spoon or fork always end up on my shirt instead.

In particular, I seem to have a difficult time with soup. I am a careful eater, so this is not an everyday occurrence, and usually I am able to avoid foods like soup that are especially treacherous for me.

However, I have recently begun dating a gentleman whom I would very much like to impress with my ladylike charms. He has invited me to dine with him at his home and has informed me that he will be serving his famous homemade chicken soup. I am sure it will be delicious, but I am very afraid that I may drop some of that soup onto my shirt. Short of wearing a blouse the color of chicken soup, do you have any soup-eating tips that may help me avoid some embarrassment?

GENTLE READER: Not charming: bibs, stained clothes, and hunching over like a question mark.

Charming: a soft scarf draped around the neck.

Miss Manners arrived at this valuable knowledge by thinking about that treacherous potage, French onion soup. You don’t see French women wandering around with stains on their bosoms. You do see them with lovely scarves fetchingly arranged. Whether they flick these scarves during romantic suppers, in order to conceal a telltale stain or a string of cheese, she cannot say. But she does know that it is cheaper to have a scarf cleaned than a blouse.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband’s nephew was engaged, and his mother planned a lovely shower for her son and his bride-to-be. Several months before the shower, the couple eloped. They held a reception about a month later.

The groom’s mother had already planned the shower, reserved space, purchased food, decorations etc. She still wants to have the shower, but we are not sure what to call it. Is it appropriate to have a newlywed shower, or should we just scrap the whole idea?

GENTLE READER: If only Miss Manners could pry that word “shower” out of the hands of people who want to honor their relatives. Showers are properly given only by friends, and before the wedding. But this does not prohibit the family from giving parties that are not associated with presents.

Just refrain from calling it a shower. People have come to believe that having a shower is as essential to getting married as getting a license. Miss Manners keeps hearing of such social atrocities as mothers demanding them, bridesmaids going broke giving them, brides sulking because they didn’t have them, and guests being milked for multiple ones for the same couple.

Can we please return it to being a lighthearted gathering that friends give voluntarily, and not a major crowning and fundraising event? And not try to make every party a shower?

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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