The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Enjoy holiday meals with charity for all

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was thrown for a loop by this situation at Thanksgiving, which I was overseeing at my 88-year-old mother’s home.

My brother’s brood of young adults arrived before noon, an hour earlier than I’d expected them. I was effusive in welcoming them in, and did the best I could to be gracious as they all crowded into the kitchen, each asking what they could do to help. I said thank you, but I really just needed to concentrate on completing my mother’s dishes for the “landing.”

The next thing I know, two of them are going for the coffeemaker and preparing to brew a pot. I regret that I snapped — stopping the operation with the admonishment that this wasn’t brunch but dinner, and we would serve coffee after the meal. After the meal, before I knew it, they were all standing in the kitchen with mugs of coffee they’d made (instead of letting me use my mother’s lovely, little-used coffee service).

I realize my sore point is a minor one (although not for them, as they had apparently skipped breakfast and planned to make coffee here). But I also find the coffee thing has spiraled out of control the way cigarettes once did — the assumption that everyone is entitled to have a cup (or three or four) whenever and wherever they are.

Please advise on how to accommodate this new addiction with more grace than I did. I still feel terrible.

GENTLE READER: Addiction? Because your nieces and nephews asked for morning coffee at Grandmother’s house and were willing to make it themselves?

Were you suffering from a touch of Thanksgiving over-stress?

Miss Manners does not mean to be unsympathetic about the task of putting on such a dinner, apparently single-handedly. She understands what a nuisance it can be to have crowds in the kitchen while you are in the throes of preparation. Perhaps uniquely, she shares your feelings about the pretty coffee service being bypassed in favor of mugs.

However, things would have gone better if you had really taken charge, not just made the meal. You might have accepted offers of help. Or you could have said: “Thanks, but I just need a little room here until I’m done. It would help if just one of you made the coffee over there, and took it out to the rest. I’ll be serving coffee after dinner, so don’t worry about it then.”

Please remind yourself to have a presumption of goodwill. These are not vandals attacking your dinner; they are your young relatives, gathering for a family holiday. Goodwill would be a good thing to have at Christmas.


Holiday Advice: More tips for navigating the season’s ups and downs


DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it incorrect to wear pearls in the morning? I remember having read something to that effect. Is it all right to wear pearls at noon and after that?

GENTLE READER: Pearls are so innocent-looking that they are always welcome, even when their flashier sister jewels are not. You can properly wear them in the afternoon, in the morning and to bed, if you wish.

In fact, Miss Manners’s dear grandmother was not the only lady to advise a granddaughter to do the last. Constant wear is supposed to be good for pearls, which are believed to take on extra luster from the skin. Miss Manners has not personally tested this theory.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS



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