DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother-in-law’s sofa has so many throw pillows on it that there is no room to sit. What is the proper thing to do when invited to sit down:
Throw one or more pillows on the floor? Move one or more pillows to the back of the sofa? Perch uncomfortably on the edge of the sofa? The last option is what I have been doing, but there must be a better way.
GENTLE READER: Well, they are called throw pillows.
Miss Manners cannot advise you to litter your mother-in-law’s floor with the pesky things, tempting as that may be. At least when hotels and hosts litter the beds with extraneous pillows, you can swipe them off and replace them in the morning with no one the wiser.
Your situation comes under survival tactics, such as when a restaurant customer is served food without the proper utensils to attack it. Which is to say, ask for help and if none is forthcoming, solve the problem yourself.
In this case, you would pleasantly ask your mother-in-law where you might put the extra pillows — perhaps she would like some for her chair? If that fails, make a neat little pile of pillows and sit either to one side, or perch on top of them like a crow on a dung heap.
Or, for heaven’s sake, pick another place to sit, perhaps racing your mother-in-law to her favorite chair.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter quickly realized (on the night of her wedding, no less) that her choice for a husband was not going to work out, and we are left with the task of returning gifts, checks and cash.
Does etiquette require us to offer an explanation when returning said gift, or is no explanation and a thank-you for coming all that is necessary?
GENTLE READER: It strikes Miss Manners as odd to thank people for going to a wedding that the bride either skipped or wishes she had not attended.
Your daughter does owe wedding guests an explanation, but the only proper one is, “It was a mutual decision to dissolve the marriage.” This will drive people crazy, especially considering the timing, but that is their problem.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I started dating someone whose out-of-context singing, humming and whistling deeply irritate me. I realize this is a joyful act, so I do have some guilt about feeling annoyed with him.
Last weekend we were on a crowded train back to the city, and when he started it up again, I (sweetly) asked him to stop. I found it especially inconsiderate and bothersome because I’m sure other people, absorbed in their own conversations, books, etc., didn’t want to hear him either. I could tell my request hurt his feelings and offended him.
More than the actual act, my concern is that he is inconsiderate and lacks self-awareness. Or, maybe worse, that I’ve become uptight and intolerant. Am I wrong here?
GENTLE READER: Are you wrong to date someone who has a habit that drives you crazy, but who is unwilling or unable to drop it? Yes.