Q. My partner and I have lived happily together for the past five years--until this past weekend, when her mother was with us.
When I first met my partner, I'll call her Boomer, she had the annoying habit of applying toothpaste to her toothbrush as if it were whipping cream on a sundae. I mean, we would go through a large tube a week. After watching her mother brush her teeth, I know where Boomer got the habit.
I, being the sole support of the household, objected, and we agreed that I would put Boomer's toothpaste portion on her toothbrush every morning. This worked out fine until last weekend. Knowing that Boomer's family had a proclivity for using large amounts of toothpaste, I measured out individual portions on clean squares of wax paper and left them in the guest bathroom. (Boomer's family has an absurd idea that your teeth are not really clean unless you use large amounts while my dentist tells me toothpaste is not necessary at all.)
Anyway, nothing was said at breakfast, and Boomer's mother left quietly. Today I received in the mail a whole case of toothpaste, and a nasty note saying next time she would prefer to stay in a motel.
Was I in the wrong, or is she acting rudely? Believe me, all I am trying to do is save money so that Boomer can go to graduate school.
A.What a noble soul you are, out to educate the world. What have you planned to have Boomer study in graduate school? Obedience?
It had not occurred to Miss Manners before, but probably the definition of a rude host is one who notices how much of his ordinary supplies his guests use and broods about the cost. No, no. It's someone who lurks near the guest bathroom to observe how a middle-aged female houseguest brushes her teeth.
Q. When my ex-wife and I were married, she used her given first and middle names with my last name. Fine with me, and acceptable by all.
For five years after we were divorced, she continued using the same set of names--still okay. Now she has remarried, and is using her first name, my last name as her middle name, and her current husband's last name as her last name. Is this a common practice? Is this correct?
A. Yes. No. Oh, let's both let her be, shall we?
The correct forms for married women's names were minted when a lady 1) did not get a divorce and, consequently, 2) did not care to have people know that her current marriage was not her first, at least that her first husband did not have the grace to expire when she no longer needed him. She also probably had not made her professional reputation under the first husband's name and therefore would be loath to expunge it.
One of these days, Miss Manners is going to issue a whole set of new rules about the proper usage of women's names. It's too hot out today.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.