WHY IT IS that so few people nowadays keep full household staffs, Miss Manners cannot imageine. Do you prefer searching for parking spaces to having a chauffeur? Would they rather surrender their clothes for indefinite periods of time to cleaning establishments than to keep a laundress? Are they content to be done in by any strange criminal off the street rather than by a family butler?
Surely there are many who would reconsider if they knew how smoothly life can go when the servants outnumber the family, two or three to one. That is, provided that the servants don't notice that this ration is also a favorable one for revolution.
One housewife could accomplish all these tasks, of course. But, because Miss Manners is a devoted believer in good working conditions for household workers, with strictly observed hours, days off, vacations and sick leave, she recommends employing a sufficient staff so that no one is over-burdened.
This should consist of: Pantry Department
The butler, who supervises this department and sees to it that meals are properly served, flowers arranged, silver polished, wine treated with respect, and the downstairs halls, including the door and the telephone, are properly covered. In poor households, he must serve the meat and the wine at the dinner, but in more favorable circumstances he need only stand behind the chair of the lady of the house, waiting to receive orders for the troops.
The footmen, who actually perform the duties of serving, answering telephone and cleaning up. In equal employment opportunity households, this work may be performed by waitreses.
Parlormaids, who are responsible for the drawing room, the library and delivering breakfast trays to ladies in deshabille. In equal employment opportunity households, this work may be performed by parlormen. Kitchen Department
The cook, who cooks. The kitchen maids, who do the dirty work of the kitchen. In E.E.O.H.es -- on, never mind. Upstairs Department
A lady's maid, who keeps the clothes and hair of the lady of the house in order, dresses her, draws her bath, listens to her cry when the master is behaving badly again, and delivers her love letters directly to the person for whom they were intended.
The valet, who does the same for the man of the house.
Chambermaids, or housemaids (or men), who keep the upstairs clean, orderly, and appropriate to the hour -- that is, they draw the shades and turn down the beds at night and undraw them and turn them up again (in the better households they take the beds apart completely) in the morning. Laundry Department
Laundress (es) (er), who are responsible for the cleanliness of all clothes not immediately occupied by their owners. That is, if the lady spills soup on her bosom, the lady's maid mops up, but if the lady takes the blouse off, the laundress gets it. Outdoor Department
A chauffeur, who drives the car, keeps it clean and repaired and keeps out of trouble with the law, especially when he is in the car alone and pretending that it is his. It is best to have two chauffeurs, one for day and one for night.
The gardeners, who, under the supervision of the head gardener, keep the outdoor property in order and provide flowers for the house and vegetables for the table.
The gamekeeper, who -- never mind what the gamekeeper does. Miscellaneous
The housekeeper, who battles for control of the household with the butler and the cook.
Companions, governesses, tutors, nannies and nurses, who occupy positions above the servants but below the family members, which means that they tend to be lonely. Fortunately, someone always falls madly and inappropriately in love with them.
The people who perform all of the above tasks on Sunday afternoons -- the lady and gentleman of the household. Servants must arrange among themselves to let these people do the work occasionally. Otherwise, they get spoiled. MISS MANNERS RESPONDS
Q. I am attempting to cut off communication with a former friend of mine. I would like to do so tactfully and politely. However, this person apparently has not received the message that I no longer wish to associate with him. For example, I never call him, and do not even remember his phone number. However, he does call me, though I did not give him my number. When he calls, and I happen to be unlucky enough to answer the phone, I am polite, but do not attempt to continue the conversation. Still, he calls. Miss Manners, what can I do?
A. Of the two ways of dropping people who have been friends -- With Cause, and Without -- with cause is easier. It is too bad that your friend did not offend you mortally, but unethical to pretend that he did so. Anyway, this one would probably kill himself trying to explain. Better forget that angle. Miss Manners is sorry she brought it up.
Saying no to friendship is like saying no to unwanted food, drink or romantic attention. You just have to keep saying it, firmly and politely, until people stop pressing it on you. Try not to consider your ex-friend's behavior as an attempt to drive you crazy with obtuse persistence; regard it as his polite wish to give you the benefit of the doubt, in case you were neglecting him inadvertently. Every time he calls, you must say, kindly, "I'm so sorry, I can't talk now." After a few years, he is bound to get the idea.
Q. Very often I have been in a restaurant when my dining partner and I decide to order two different dishes, so that we may each sample the diversity of the chef's culinary prowess. When the order arrives, we divide up its contents -- sometimes according to volume, and other times according to price. On occasion, this practice has prompted derisive sneers or disdainfully raised eyebrows. Firstly, I do not think this behavior should warrant a negative response. It is not as if we are masticating with open mouths or are chucking food across the table, soiling the table linens and the centerpiece. Secondly, I have heard that mutual sharing is quite proper and even has a fancy French name.
I would approciate your comment. Is my behavior proper and do you know the appellation for my actions?
A. The word is "partager." You are not going to ask Miss Manners to conjugate it, are you?
Sharing food in a restaurant is perfectly proper; what is raising eyebrows is your method of doing so. The only acceptable sharing one may arrange at the table is to give a beloved dinner partner one taste of one's food on one's fork, or a less intimate acquaintance a taste on his or her own fork.
If you plan to go halves, you must tell the waiter when you order, so the food may be served that way from the kitchen. That is why there is a word for it; get it?
If you say "Nous voulon partager," you needn't conjugate the verb.
Q. Please help me! My daughter was brought up in the area where we still reside. However, she has become a resident of a Southern state, where she attended a university for the last four years, since the tuition cost to me would be reduced by her residency of that state.
She has now become engaged to a young man whose family members are residents of the town in which the university is located. They are talking about getting married in the next several months. I told my daughter that I want to give them a lovely wedding, which I would like to have here. All I wanted to know from them was what kind of a wedding they wished. They could have a church ceremony or civil ceremony, a formal or an informal wedding, a sit-down dinner or a buffet -- whatever they desired.
I was told in no uncertain terms that it is "their wedding" and therefore they intend to have it in the Southern town where her fiance's family resides, primarily because it would be very inconvenient for her fiance's relatives and friends to have to come up here and stay in a hotel. Naturally, I am expected to travel 1,200 miles several times to make all the arrangements and, of course, pay for the wedding. Never mind the inconvenience to me or our relatives. She also claims they just bought a book which states that the bride and groom decide where the wedding should take place. I ever heard of such nonsense.
A. Miss Manners has, but more accurately than your daughter, who has confused two types of wedding. One is the traditional wedding of a young woman marrying from her parents' house, so to speak. Such a wedding is given by the parents of the bride in their hometown. The other is the wedding of an independent woman who has already left her parents.
In neither case is the geographical statement to be taken literally; there is nothing to stop a 32-year-old tycoon who lives on two coasts at once to consider that she is symbolically leaving her parents' protection at her wedding.
However, no woman who speaks to her mother "in no uncertain terms" can be considered to be under her parents' protection. Miss Manners therefore believes your daughter is entitled to put on her own wedding, wherever she chooses. Naturally, this means that she will make all the arrangements, including the minor matter of meeting bills.
The graceful thing for you to do, in the interests of family harmony and respect for your daughter's rights, is to inform her that you will be pleased to attend -- as a guest, of course, not a hostess -- whatever sort of wedding will make her happy.