Q: I am single and have male guests in my home quite often. What I need to know is if it is proper to answer the phone furthest away from my guest in case it may be another man, or is it rude? I would also like to know what to do when an uninvited man comes to the door while another is in the house. It seldom happens, but would I go outside the door and partially close it behind me, or simply tell the intruder just what I thought of his unscheduled call in full view of my guest and shut the door?
A: One does not desert an invited guest to entertain an uninvited one, by telephone or in person, regardless of gender. A telephoner should be told that you will return the call later. A caller, unless he would enhance the visit of the original guest, may be told politely that he has called at an inconvenient time. Ladies who are conducting simultaneous romances with several gentlemen cannot be too careful about such niceties.
Q: My husband inherited some silver for the table from his family. It's a service for 10, very old and rather pretty [although hard to clean]. The monogram belonged to his great-grandmother, and has no initials in common with ours. Also, it's marked on the wrong side. That is, the letters are engraved on the backs of the forks and spoons, instead of on the fronts. Why would that be? Should I have my own put on the front, where they can be seen, or what? I'd like to show it off to best advantage.
A: You are headed smack in the wrong direction by attempting to pass off your inherited silver as new. Miss Manners does not suggest you go so far as to adopt the English insult -- "The sort of people who buy their silver" -- but notifies you that such an expression exists, in the hopes of making you appreciate what you have.
Fortunately for you, everyone will notice this when you learn to set your table as this silver was intended to be placed -- with the fork prongs and bowls facing down, so that the initials may be seen. Because this is rarely done in this country, you will undoubtedly be asked questions by those who wish to point out that you have set your table backwards. That will give you the opportunity to explain that you have old family silver. For this purpose, you must learn what each initial stands for, and a charming anecdote or two about the original owner.
Your only danger, in this triumph of status, is that some people will lump you with the sort of people who buy old silver and make up names to go with the initials.
Q: I am almost at the point where I don't want to have people as friends if they smoke. It must be the most inconsiderate habit in the world, in terms of other people's health and convenience, and surely it is the ugliest. If I see people puffing away at parties, I steer clear of them. But sometimes the occasional smokers fool me. They're not smoking when I meet them, but when I invite them over -- my husband and I enjoy doing a lot of entertaining, and like to mix in new people -- they light up in my own house, which I hate.
How can I stop this? I know it isn't nice to start giving guests orders, but, honestly, is there any reason to want to keep these people as friends?
A: Actually, smokers make excellent friends at present-giving time, because they can always be given pretty lighters and ashtrays, and, if you are in love with one, although Miss Manners gathers you are not, an engraved silver cigarette case makes a marvelous present. However, that does not seem to cover your chief question. The answer to that is that when you invite them, you may say, "I hope you don't smoke, because we don't have smoking in the house," provided you laugh at your own inflexibility as you do so.