IF HOSPITALITY is a divine obligation, it certainly has an immediate earthly reward. Miss Manners is referring to that sublime moment when one's guests all go home. If they ever do.
Anyone who has prepared a meal for others and set out clean implements with which it can be eaten, who has performed the feat of looking around his or her own living room at his dearest friends and still reciting all their names correctly, and who has spent an evening encouraging others to tell their best stories which he already knows by heart, deserves a treat. The treat is to remove the shoes and eat all the leftovers.
However, this can only be done if the guests depart. It is nearly impossible to manage both giving guests a good time and getting them to budge promptly. Therefore, no thoughtful host should be without his own resources for speeding the departing guest.
According to the Analects of Confucious, as summarized by dear Harold Nicolson, an ancient Chinese guest was amply provided by his host with clues on when to leave. "When visiting a superior, it is permissible to ask leave to retire when the host either yawns, stretches himself, looks at his watch, or 'begins to eat leeks or garlic as a cure for sleepiness,'" Sir Harold noted in "Good Behavior."
Unfortunately, yawning and stretching are considered unsubtle in our society. Watch-looking is borderline; watch-shaking is out. But that last suggestion - now there is a wonderful idea.
Miss Manners also admires Max Warburg, the Hamburg banker who is reputed to have concluded his entertainment by looking at a clock and declaring, "Why, you naughty clock, you're driving my guests away!"
For simple, modern good manners, Miss Manners recommends that the host merely arise at the proper time and, with a grateful smile and out-stretched hand, say, "You were so very, very kind to have visited me."
MISS MANNERS RESPONDS
Q: What am I supposed to do while people are drinking a toast to me? I have seen engaged couples who just sit there and grin while people drink to them, and others who sip champagne while being toasted. Frankly, they all look silly. What should one do?
A: When England's Princess Margaret Rose was considerably smaller and more adorable than she is now, she was said to have asked her father what he sang while everyone else was singing "God Save the King." The answer to your question is the same as the answer to hers: Try to look gratified and dignified, but under no circumstances should you join right in.
Q: By what term does one properly refer to the male counterpart of a ballerina? The term male ballet dancer seems awkward. And certainly, awk- wardness is something that those in ballet should be encouraged to avoid.
A: The term "dancer" should be used, not only for the male counterpart of a ballerina, but for the female counterpart of the male counterpart of a ballerina. "Ballerina" is a silly term that has come to mean any 11-year-old who wears her hair in a bun and carries a plastic carrying case with a picture of disembodied toe shoes. Professional dancers, male or female, are principals, soloists or members of the corps. The way to tell which are male and which are female is to take a look.
Q: What is the correct way for a gentleman and a lady to enter (or exit) a building with a swinging door that only swings away from said gentleman and lady?
A: The gentleman mans the hinge side of the door and the lady sails through, assuming that he will keep the glass moving ahead of her nose. This is child's play compared to the problem of a gentleman and lady entering (or exiting) a door that swings toward them.
Q: Is it permissible to touch up my makeup at a restaurant table?
A: As the ancient Greeks understood so well, it's all a matter of degree. It is permissible to powder your nose at a restaurant table, provided the powder puff is clean (and the nose is shiny). It is not permissible to touch up the roots of the hair.