ALWAYS WISHING everyone the best, Miss Manners is usually quite generous with your money. She feels wise and good-hearted when she urges you to have silver flatware, rather than stainless steel, and linen napkins instead of paper. Even cries of economic diaster do not deter her; she merely bolsters her position by saying that silver on the table is better than money in the bank, and linen napkins last longer than paper.
When it comes to glasses, however, her conscience begins to assert itself. Miss Manners is perfectly capable of rhapsodizing sincerely, not to say poetically, about the beauties of crystal. But if you asked her point blank to justify the expense of extensive and expensive glasses, she could only mumble, "They're pretty."
They also either gather dust on the shelves because nobody drinks anything except white wine and soda, or they make troublesome fragments at the bottom of the dishwasher.
So, although Miss Manners finds it reassuring to see five glasses neatly arranged above her knife at a dinner table (for sherry with the soup, white wine with the fish, red wine with the meat, champagne with the dessert, and water so she won't slide off her chair), she admits that one can live decently on only one wine and water.
A large, stemmed glass and a slightly smaller one will fill (and be filled with) these needs. If you have a second, still smaller, wine glass, you can use the larger for red and the smaller for white; it is as cheap to impress your guests with two wines as with one of which they will drink twice as much. A third, smallest, wine glass used for white allows you to serve the red in the largest and claret in the middle one, a situation not likely to come up.
Sherry glasses, you may be surprised to hear, are for sherry, although Miss Manners would not refuse a late afternoon offer of topaz liquid if it were served in the regular wine glass, rather than the Y-shaped one. Wide-rimmed champagne glasses are for whipped desserts and frozen daiquiris, as well as one's daily ration of champagne. Tulip-shaped champagne glasses are snazzier, in Miss Manners' opinion, but not as versatile.
One can also have fat-bowled glasses on short stems for brandy and teensy glasses on weensy stems for liqueurs. However, sticking one's face in the former and snorting, or tossing the contents of the latter down one's gullet are bad form.
Unstemmed glasses have all sorts of names for themselves. They insist that they are highball glasses or old-fashioned glasses or iced-tea glasses or fruit-juice glasses. Don't believe them. They are either big glasses or small ones.
The tall ones are used for mixed drinks, iced-tea, low-calorie pop, high-calorie pop, the children's milk and the children's beer. The short ones are for straight liquor and the following morning's fruit juice.
It may also aid you in saving money to know that having many types of glasses for complicated drinks shows an interest in bartending that is not quite nice. Miss Manners doesn't recommend stirring your guests' drinks with your fingers, but a bar full of liquor-connected tools and devices is vulgar.
You should also know that if your glasses are reasonably thin, hardly anyone can tell the best crystal from more durable crystal, or sometimes even from plain glass. At least, they can't by candelight.
When they get to the store the next day, to replace the fragile glass of yours they broke, they will find out the difference. MISS MANNERS RESPONDS
Q. First I would like to say that being the father of two girls and no sons is very expensive and somewhat unfair around wedding time.
When my oldest daughter was married a couple of years ago, almost everyone was local and no lodging was needed. Now my youngest is getting married in June, and her fiance is in the Marine Corps and his relatives are from far away. I would think that my obligation would be to make reservations for them, but my wife says that we are obligated to pay for their motel rooms. I haven't been able to find out which way is correct.
A. Indeed, it is unfair to be the father of a bride, as opposed to the father of a bridegroom, but not quite that unfair. You get to pay for everything connected with the wedding and the reception, with the exception of the clergyman's fee and the atrocious bills run up by the ushers, and for everything the bride wears and has bought before the marriage to wear later, except the wedding rings.
But you are not responsible for the support of the bridegroom's family, even during the wedding festivities. It is thoughtful to make a convenient reservation for them, but not necessary to pay their bill. The only hotel bill you will have is if your family is unable to persuade local friends what fun it would be to have the bridesmaids stay with them.
Q. I have a friend who married a medical doctor. She is also a doctor, and although she legally took his name, she continues to use her maiden name (with the title "Dr.") professionally. My questions are: How does one correctly address correspondence to this couple, and how does one introduce them in social situations?
A. There are so many possibilities -- and people are so unreasonably touchy if you guess the wrong one -- that the safest thing is to ask them. Since you ask Miss Manners, however, she suggests that you address them jointly as "The Doctors Dolittle" and introduce each of them as "Dr. Dolittle." Traditionally, a married woman did not use a professional title socially, and so was "and Mrs. James Dolittle" socially, while being "Dr. Jane Fixit" professionally.
Q. My recently late mother had to spend the final year of her life in a nursing home. My sister and I spent most of our hours for the first week at her bedside, helping her through the difficult loss of her preerred solo and autononmous life at home.
A couple of months later, I journeyed to that city to pay her another visit, and I went into the nursing home, a good one with liberal visiting hours, at various time of day and, of course, without notice. Staff members were always kind and helpful, and considerate in many ways of all the patients. My mother had been known always to her friends and neighbors of her age as, shall we say, "Mrs. Jackson," and to her relatives and intimates as, shall we say, "Helen," her middle name. I was annoyed and almost aghast to find that 22-year-old aides would invariably come in and say to my 80-year-old mother, "How are we feeling today, Margaret?" using her first name, which she had never used.
What to do? I was concerned that if I said, "My mother's name is Mrs. Jackson," they, or some of them, would just take it out on her when my sister and I were not present. I said nothing, because I saw it as a no-win situation. Was there a way to win?
A. Miss Manners is determined to find a way, having no intention of spending her old age being cheekily patronized by those who recognize no gradations of intimacy or respect.
What makes the battle difficult, as you recognize, is that the intentions are probably good, although the effect is dreadful. Those who believe in instant and universal informality generally mean well, although they will never understand the joy of real warmth that is allowed to develop naturally and therefore slowly.
In this case, you should simply have explained to the offenders that your mother was used to being addressed as Mrs. Jackson and preferred it. They would put it down to hopeless old-fashionedness, but so be it. Miss Manners cannot believe that otherwise kind, helpful and considerate professionals would hold it against an old lady to prefer old ways, much less retaliate against a patient for any reason.
It is more difficult to do this for oneself, particularly for a younger person who cannot gracefully admit to being used to different standards. Miss Manners' method is pointedly to address such people by their surnames and titles, ignoring all their cries of "But my name is Tom!" If she wants to be really mean, she will then address them as "Mr. Tom."
If, however, she wanted to be nice about it, she would say, "Well, perhaps we'll get to know each other well enough some day to be on a first name basis."
Q. What are the proper clothes for a black tie wedding? Of course, the ushers and the best man will be in black formal wear, but what about the bridegroom? Should he wear white tie to distinguish himself from the other men?
And what about the guests? What do they wear -- both men and women? Suppose the wedding is in the afternoon?
A. There is no question of that. Wearing black tie during daylight is no way to start a marriage. The cut-away with gray, striped trousers is formal daytime wear.
As for the black tie evening wedding, all adult men at it, in whatever relationship, wear the same clothes, although guests can also get away with dark business suits. There is no need to distinguish the bridegroom; he is the one marrying the bride.
Women guests wear dinner dresses (as opposed to ball dresses), which are generally long, although every once in a while we have a season when designers pretend that short, very fussy dresses are just as formal.