Q: After the last party I gave, I decided not to give any more parties for such an ungrateful lot of people. Besides, in a fit of pique, I struck off the names of all the people who couldn't be bothered to tell me whether they would be attending. That didn't leave enough people for much more than a game of bridge.
Should I ever again find myself in a position to have to send out invitations, I intend to state clearly at the bottom of the invitation: "If I have not received a reply from you by (whatever date I need a head count), I shall assume you will not be joining us."
That puts the problem with the guest, where it belongs. If the guest chooses to treat the invitation as an unwelcome intrusion into his busy life, it is not the host's problem. If the guest really would like to attend, but is prevented by some other obligation, he can still reply with his regrets.
Since I've sworn off giving parties, I have no way to test this idea. Perhaps you could pass it on to those who are still trying, and let me know whether it works.
A: Miss Manners has the sad feeling that -- your experience being not uncommon -- it will be harder and harder to find people willing to entertain the ingrates.
Unless guests learn to behave themselves, we shall continue to see the decline of private, just-for-fun social life, and its replacement by the quasi-ethical, self-seeking sort of impersonal entertainment for which some business gets stuck with the bill.
Your solution is only a stopgap measure. By including that disclaimer, you only confirm that the minimal courtesy of replying to an invitation is no longer expected. And what would you do if a friend who had not replied nevertheless showed up on the doorstep? Send him away?
Miss Manners prefers the tactic, pathetic as it is, of explaining why one needs an answer, as if the guests were children who had never been exposed to basic manners. "Please let me know if you will be able to attend -- I would love to see you, but I really must plan if I am to entertain you properly."
Q: When my husband was alive, he handled everything, so I never thought about tiny details, such as how to tip at restaurants.
It seems each restaurant is different. Fast-food places are no problem. But in some restaurants, a little tray is brought for our money; we take the tray with our bill and money to the counter. Do we leave the tip behind on the table?
In others, they bring us the tray and we put our money on it; then they return with our change. If the tray is left, do we leave our tips on it?
Sometimes, when we are paying with a credit card, the receipt is left on the table or tray. Are we always expected to tear out our copy and leave theirs?
It is embarrassing to take our bill up to the counter and have them tell us the waiter will handle it from our table. How does one know?
A: Now, now. Ladies can manage this just as easily as gentlemen, whose memories we want to treasure for larger contributions to happiness than this.
You pay bills at the table unless told otherwise. Sometimes there are instructions on the bill to pay as you leave, or you could watch what others do, but you should not be embarrassed if the waiter informs you of this practice.
In any case, the trays and tips (unless they are included on the credit slip) are left on the table. In fact, the tips are left in the trays. If you pay at the counter, you take only the bill with you, and leave the tip behind. If the waiter does not give you your copy of the credit slip and, in these sad times, your carbons, you may either ask for them or take them yourself.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.