Q: For the past six years, I have been keeping company with a lady whom I have taken to dinner every Thursday evening. (I am 78 years old.) For the past two years, I have given her a scented towelette, which she has used regularly after eating.

Last night, she stated that she didn't think it proper to "wash her hands" at the table, and put the towelette in her purse. To say I was hurt and offended is putting it mildly.

My question: Is it proper or improper for a lady to use a towelette at the table after finishing her meal at a nice restaurant?

A: No, that is not your question. Your question is, why, after six years of Thursday night dinners, is this lady engaging in a mild form of rebellion?

It is Miss Manners' insightful guess that the lady has calculated that she could easily die waiting for you to intensify this carefully measured courtship, and that you are lucky to have escaped with only a spat over a towelette.

However, as this is your chosen battleground, it behooves Miss Manners to make a ruling. A towelette is not, strictly speaking, appropriate to use at a restaurant table. The lady is right.

Of course, if things were going better between you, Miss Manners might be benevolent enough to make allowances, and to pretend that the towelette could pass for a version of the hot towels served in Japanese restaurants at the commencement of meals, or that it could represent the fingerbowl, which appears at the conclusion in formal Western service. She will not do so in this case, however. If the lady had a fingerbowl at hand while contemplating the maddening slowness of your ardor, there is no telling what she might do.