Q. Our mother, who is 58, still beautiful, witty, bright, a published writer, and recently widowed, is job-hunting. But she is looking in the want ads for a position as housekeeper, cook or personal maid.
We are in distress, all seven of us. Our father left her with two houses, a houseful of furniture, two cars and $1,600 per month. No bills except for taxes and living expenses.
Our mother feels service is not demeaning. She loves to cook and run a house. She could make up to $1,800 per month, plus room and board. She would just like to immerse herself in a cozy home for a couple of years and save her salary.
We are not looking forward to introducing our mother to friends as "the cook for -- " or " -- 's housekeeper." She might even end up working for the parents of friends in our social circle.
Is this a supreme folly on our mother's part, or are we being stuffy?
A. Stuffy? No, that's not quite the word that comes to Miss Manners' mind. Could it be "insufferable"?
In contrast, your mother sounds splendid. Miss Manners doesn't need a housekeeper (and warns the millions of people who do not to write in, because she doesn't have your mother's name or address), but she would like to have such a wise and gallant lady as a friend. Your mother's pluck in turning bereavement into a chance to be of service to others, in the way she happens to choose, is as fortunate for her own happiness as it will be for the lucky recipients.
Miss Manners does not understand what you mean in your cracks about "service." She dares to say that you did not consider it demeaning when your mother cooked and cared for you.
She does, however, understand your fear of having your mother find employment in your own social circle. With your attitudes, you may well suffer by comparison when your friends get to know her.
But surely that is more than compensated for by the pride you will have in being able to introduce such a lady as your mother.
Q. When adult paper-carriers replaced the paper-boys in our neighborhood, they started delivering the paper in the driveways at an earlier hour. My parents and some of my friends leave the papers in the driveways for hours, sometimes almost till dark.
When visiting these people, I feel foolish stopping to pick up the paper and then pulling into their driveway.
My brother's wife just pulls into the driveway oblivious to the presence of the papers. She says that they are wrapped in plastic, and driving over them does no damage unless you brake sharply or floor the accelerator.
She compares it with visiting people who leave items on chairs. Unless they remove the items or ask you not to touch them, you can assume it is OK to sit on the items.
A. What items? It makes a big difference, it seems to Miss Manners, whether you are talking about a pillow or the cat.
You are obligated to avoid damaging anyone's possessions, and you get bonus points for being genuinely helpful. While Miss Manners would not dream of discouraging you from bringing in the paper, she accepts your sister-in-law's excuse that no harm is done to the paper if you don't bring it in.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.