Q: My daughter is 32 years old, single, and has a very nice town house. There is a half bathroom on the first floor and another in the finished basement. Even when she has a cocktail party of 25 guests, she will put only one (clean) terry hand towel on the towel bar. She will not even allow a box of attractive paper guest towels to sit on top of the vanity next to the washbowl (where there is plenty of room). Is she correct to use only the one towel, or should she have more?
A: It is elementary, that if one has several guests, one should have several guest towels. The vehemence of your daughter's refusal to acknowledge this must strike you as peculiar and illogical. And so it is.
But you have to understand that the guest towel is, in American society, a fetish item, strangely respected and venerated even by those in whom no other sign of respect of the property of others has even been manifested.
It is easily possible to give a party for 25 people, each of whom may visit the bathroom at least once, and end up with an untouched rack of guest towels. Did they not wash their hands? Did they blow-dry them, or wipe them on their clothes or on your curtains? You'll never know. But why did they refuse to use the guest towels? Perhaps because they were warned not to use them in their childhood homes, and have failed to make the transition to full-fledged guesthood.
Perhaps from the silly reluctance to "be first" that has guests staring stupidly at untouched buffet tables walking around the block until other guests arrive, or torturing their hosts by not leaving when the party should be over.
Miss Manners is not really interest in psychological justification; most people keep their souls so untidy. But she will tell you that what your daughter is doing is providing her guests with a towel that represents a pseudo family towel, and therefore supposedly does not participate in the taboo put on guest towels.
Miss Manners has a simpler solution. Before giving a party, put a row of fresh guest towels on the towel rack in the bathroom. Then wash your hands, dry them on one of the towels and place the used towel, in a rumpled state, at the edge of the rack. This is not easy for most people. It requires courage and daring. But your first guest will be able to be the second to use a towel, and, whenever any of your guests decide to do with their wet hands, you will have set them a brave example.
Q: I received an invitation to a birthday party that says "Please No Gifts." If I give money, is it a gift?
A: Miss Manners does not believe in hosts giving any instructions, even negative ones, about anticipated presents. What you suggest would be throwing good money after bad manners.