Message in a Beer Bottle

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dear Miss Manners:

Under what conditions do you consider it appropriate for an elderly "lady" to drink beer directly from the bottle?

Specifically, in an upscale retirement facility, we have "happy hour" every Thursday afternoon from 4 to 5 p.m. in a casual all-purpose room. Dinner is served in a very nice dining room following. A glass of wine is served with dinner if one wishes to have it.

Some residents leave the happy hour and bring their last cocktail, highball or beer with them to the dining room (which is okay).

One woman (age 70 to 75) brings a beer and drinks it from the bottle during her dinner. I contend that anyone who brings the beer with them should have it poured into a glass -- particularly an elderly woman.

Am I old-fashioned and behind the times? A picnic or watching a ball game at a sports bar might be okay.

Less seemly than drinking beer from a bottle in a proper dining room would be one diner chastising another over her table manners. Miss Manners trusts that you do not intend to do that, but that you merely want confirmation that chug-a-lugging is not becoming in such circumstances. No, it is not. For anyone of any age or gender.

However, you may also hope to reform the lady. Miss Manners insists that you not attempt it directly, but presumably you know the dining-room waiters. You might gently suggest that one of them make a habit of appearing with a glass saying, "Allow me to pour this for you, madam," and then removing the empty bottle.

This would make it a point of good service rather than bad manners.

Dear Miss Manners:

I host a very large and elaborate Super Bowl party every year. As part of the party, I provide entrees, appetizers and beverages. The total cost of the party approaches $1,000 typically.

As part of the invitations I send for the party, in addition to the RSVP request, I typically ask that the guests attending chip in $5 to $10 toward the cost of the food and beverage. From an etiquette point of view, is a request to guests for a small contribution of this type impolite or poor manners?

Yes: "Hosts" do not "invite" people they call "guests" to pay for refreshments.

Ordinarily, Miss Manners would sympathize with you and suggest that you more modestly offer your house to a group of friends who would help set the rules for a cooperative gathering.

But that would not be likely to be either large or elaborate. The sort of party you describe should be given only by those who can afford it.

Dear Miss Manners:

I had won and kept several gifts at showers, and it was not until I attended a baby shower, and all the gifts were for babies, did I realize that they were meant to be given to the guest of honor! I don't know when this custom began, but it is for the birds!

It is also for a generation that grew up being told that being the birthday child trumped all duties and consideration of one's guests.

Dear Miss Manners:

The other evening after a few cocktails, I impulsively invited a gentleman to a dinner party being held by my mother. Later, I realized the mix of guests would probably not be a good one, and it would be an unexpected surprise for my mother. How do I take back the invitation without hurting the gentleman's feelings?

Normally you can't, but here you have someone to blame. After all, what are mothers for?

Miss Manners imagines that yours would rather you said, "I'm so sorry, my mother thought she had an extra place but didn't, and would like to meet you another time" than announce that the invitation is void because you were tipsy when you made it.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) atMissManners@unitedmedia.comor mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2008Judith Martin

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