laplumeDear L.A. Plume,

My friend and I went out for dinner recently and when we were seated at the table, the waiter whisked the napkins off the table, unfolded them, and presented my friend with her napkin. But he exchanged the white napkin in front of me for a black one! What was that all about? My friend was wearing beige and I was wearing black – was this a fashion-forward thing, did it have to do with he fact that I was wearing red lipstick and the restaurant didn’t want stains on the napkins? Quite frankly, my first instinct was to be a bit insulted.



Dear Confused,

Actually the gesture was one of respect; white napkins sometimes leave lint on dark clothing.

L. A. Plume


Dear Ms. Plume,

How does one politely address the issues of house guest courtesy when it comes to things like what to do with the bed and bath linens when they leave? My recent guests left after I had already gone to work and when I came home the beds were unmade and the wet towels were in a pile in the bottom of the bathtub. It would have been nice if they had stripped the beds and left the towels hanging, or better yet, had just put them in the washing machine.



Dear Sherry,

You may borrow the story of my recent house guests – they cleaned the pool, washed the dishes, vacuumed the floors, set the dinner table, brought lovely gifts, paid for everything when we went out, put their linens in the washing machine, and took out their trash. Sometimes, setting the bar high will lead to people wanting to live up to your expectations, that the might be invited back.

L. A. Plume


Dear Ms. Plume,

What can we do about people who come to social functions with an agenda – i.e. guests who come to a cocktail or dinner party and try to promote their business? I have received complaints about friends dominating the conversation when they should just have a lovely time socializing. Then again, this is how everyone earns a living – by talking about what they do. Your thoughts, please.



Dear Nell,

I think it’s a fine line between talking about what we do, and promoting it at a social function. But there is a line that should be drawn.

Mr. X has a good response: We spend most of our waking productive hours at work, it’s a natural topic for social discussions and spills easily into the evening and sometimes even defines us socially. The rule is simple – if you are asked what you do, then you reply. That may or may not lead to further conversation. What is unacceptable and unproductive is a sales pitch. Only give a business card in social setting if you are asked for one. You may, however, give a calling card, which simply gives your personal details: name, address, and phone, but does not mention your work or business. The essence of good manners is to always make people comfortable when they are around you, pushing a sales pitch will just make them defensive and is totally unproductive.

I owe Mr. X several lunches for his assistance, but, of course, he never lets a lady pay.

L. A. Plume


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