It would not occur to Miss Manners to wonder why there is a new interest these days in how to serve an intimate, attractive company breakfast. If people seem to be opening their homes more often to spontaneous house guests by whom they want to do the proper thing, surely this spread of the gracious impulse of hospitality is nothing but laudable.
The true breakfast invitation, to share in the household's routine, has always been a social rarity. It is not at all the same thing as brunch, which was invented by people who see more possibilities in eggs than in salads and want to make sure they have enough cocktail time before Sunday afternoon sports. Nor is it anything like the splendid pseudo-breakfasts that follow hunts or weddings.
Household breakfast is suggested only when it appears inevitable that the guest is going to be around at breakfast time, anyway. Thus a house guest is naturally offered breakfast, although this may be properly avoided by issuing, instead, directions for him to find his own breakfast. Other breakfast invitations are actually disguised nagging, as in, "Well, if we're really going to get an early start, be over here by 5 for breakfast, and we'll hit the road before the traffic starts."
Then there are breakfast invitations so emotionally loaded that there is no option at all for the guest about whether to accept. The answer to a yawning host who says to his dinner guests, "Well, shall I scramble up some eggs and coffee, or what?" must be, "Oh, dear, no, we've lost track of the time, my goodness, we must be going." And the answer from a dinner guest who has just voiced a fear of being late to the office and is asked, "Don't you even want some coffee or something?" must be "Why, yes, something quick would be wonderful; I hate to go."
In theory, such a meal is identical to what it would be if the guest were not there. But Miss Manners understands that there are those who do not care to show others exactly what they do when there are no witnesses, and she thinks it just as well.
Household breakfast, when there is a guest, allows some menu choice, as opposed to other company meals where the choice is take it or leave it. Alternatives among breakfast basics--orange juice or grapefruit, cereal or eggs, toast or muffins, coffee or tea--are nice, but the main choice is between serious and perfunctory eating. It is always rude to notice whether a guest is eating a great deal or hardly anything--but at breakfast time both possibilities are presented as being perfectly normal.
The newspaper, and even a choice of sections of it, is also properly offered, but, unless the stay is a long one, it is either declined or used for breakfast conversation source material. Other paper goods, such as napkins and cartons, do not belong.
What is crucial, in Miss Manners' opinion, is that the meal be served in a civilized fashion. Cups go with saucers. Bowls come with underliners. Cream goes into a pitcher. Eggs are eaten with egg spoons, not teaspoons, although those may well be your sturdiest demitasse spoons awakened for daytime duty. Grapefruit is best with a grapefruit spoon--no other utensil does such a good job of ripping open insides of the mouth so that the acidness of the fruit can be truly appreciated.
Miss Manners does not want to hear any nonsense about good manners' being dishonest because they mean that you are pretending to be something other than what you truly are (ill-mannered). Didn't your mother tell you that if you get a good breakfast, your whole day, and probably your whole life, will go better?
Q. I received a wedding invitation today from a very young couple who are living together at her folks'. They were to have been married a month ago, but that was called off because they had a fight and she ran into him with her car, throwing him over the hood to the street.
We witnessed it. Now we have received a second wedding invitation. I really don't feel like attending, but we are friends of her folks.
To top everything off, she wrote on the bottom of the mimeographed invite, "Cash gift preferred." Is that acceptable? I don't like being told what to give someone. I know they need the money, though. Her little car is sitting in front of the house with two flats. It has been there for three weeks.
A. Miss Manners supposes that mimeographing a request for cash handouts from one's guests is perfectly acceptable by the standards of someone who considers that the proper way to settle a disagreement with one's fiance is to plow into him with the car.The event in this young couple's life that you have already witnessed seems to have dampened your enthusiasm for witnessing their marriage. Miss Manners finds this quite understandable.
What she fails to understand is why you are even considering attending such a distasteful event. There seems to be a widespread idea that wedding invitations are like court summonses--you either have to go, or have to have an airtight excuse; and you also have to pay a fine--but actually, they are very easy to decline--without explanation or payment. Save your energies for the real summons you may get as a witness to their rougher ceremonies. Q.Recently, I gave a party for a close friend of mine. I sent out 23 invitations with the notation "RSVP" and a telephone number I could be reached at. Only three thoughtful people called me to say they were unable to come. What I want to know is: Was I supposed to call them, or do good manners dictate that they call me?A.No, that isn't what you want to know. If Miss Manners replied simply that no, you were not under an obligation to actively solicit responses to your request for a response, you would not be satisfied.
What you want is a way to demonstrate your annoyance at your errant guests, and at the same time to get the answer you had a right to expect from them so that you could know how many guests you would have at your party.
Unfortunately, the only way is to call them, and to say coolly, "I hadn't heard from you, and I am wondering if you will do me the honor of attending my party."
Copyright (c) 1983, United Feature Syndicate Inc.