DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter-law washes sheets and towels every day. We do that washing once a week, primarily to save time and money.

Her rationale is that if hotels do it daily, it must be the proper thing to do. What is proper for guests as well as for your immediate family?

GENTLE READER: Ordinarily, Miss Manners would caution you against learning manners from commercial establishments. Even the best hotels and restaurants operate under different circumstances from private households. She trusts that you don’t announce checkout time to your guests, although many hosts wish they could.

Only the most elaborate households, with full-time laundresses, make daily changes. Hotels do, but then, they also change the people who sleep in them more often than you probably do.

However, many hotels have now started asking their guests to let them know if they require that service. It would be unseemly for you to do it in the same fashion, leaving a printed request that your guests help you save the environment, but, if you feel it necessary, you could stick with your once-a-week (or once every new guest) routine and yet say, “There are fresh linens in the hall closet if you want them.”

As your daughter-in-law is willing to do the washing, one cannot fault her for indulging her fastidiousness. However, she has no business declaring that it is the proper thing to do.

Miss Manners does not make bed checks.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: This has happened twice to us (a married couple), and the last episode has me truly frustrated. We were invited to a potluck-style “celebration of friends and family” and attended, bringing a homemade offering, drink and a custom gift for the hostess.

The event was poorly planned, several hours passed before dinner was announced, and though we politely waited for the guests to attend their children first, we were unable to get into the queue because standing guests crowded around the table while eating. By the time we did find space at the serving table, there were no dishes left.

We decided it best to leave and find dinner at a local restaurant. The hostess complained because we were leaving early. How does one respond?

GENTLE READER: You people don’t have sharp elbows, Miss Manners surmises. But surely you could have made your way through by saying with a smile, “Excuse me, please, I’m trying to get a plate.”

And you could have gotten out the door by saying how terribly sorry you were to have to tear yourself away, without mentioning why. A pitiful look would have suggested illness, and, after all, it is true that your stomach was bothering you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it improper to drink soup right from the bowl, as opposed to using a spoon? This is a rather controversial question in our house.

GENTLE READER: Then Miss Manners hopes to make everyone happy with the answer.

Yes, it is improper to drink soup from a bowl. However, it is permitted to drink soup from a two-handled soup cup.

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

, by Judith Martin

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