Miss Manners: It’s the host’s job to clear the table

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I enjoy cooking and setting a nice table, and my spouse and I often invite several couples over for dinner. After the meal, I have come upon a problem: I don’t feel right clearing the table for able-bodied adults of equal status to me.

In the past, I joined in clearing family members’ dishes as a sign of respect for my in-laws or parents who were hosting, and I always scrape and rinse my own plate at friends’ houses. But I just don’t feel right taking the plates of our friends as they sit there with their posteriors glued to their chairs.

Something seems amiss if I am expected to be the server or cleaning crew. I’d just like everyone (or one member of every couple, whether male or female) to scrape their plates, briefly rinse them and stack them near the sink.

GENTLE READER: What is amiss, Miss Manners notices, is your definition of a host. You clear the table when you are the host. The reciprocity comes when your friends entertain you.

Volunteer help is a bonus, and not every host wants it.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: After leaving a decade ago for college, I have returned to the city my mother lives in. It’s been great seeing the local community again, including many of my mother’s friends. I remember all of their faces, but I can’t always remember their names.

Lately, I’ve been put in the awkward position of being asked, “Do you remember me?” after I have already said hello and even hugged them in greeting! Responding with “I don’t remember your name” feels embarrassing and rude. I’ve resorted to saying “Of course I do!” -- because I do know their face! -- but it admittedly feels dishonest, and I’m unable to back it up with their actual name.


What is the most polite way to respond to this?

GENTLE READER: Surely remembering a face is good enough to answer affirmatively and in good conscience. If you expect to be quizzed, Miss Manners would have your mother by your side, so she can jump in with, “Of course she remembers you, Mabel!”

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a young person, I learned that when making a phone call, you introduce yourself and then politely ask to speak to the person you are trying to reach. It’s a really effective way of starting a phone conversation on the right foot.

Today, it seems no one practices this. Caller ID does not always provide a name or place of business, so I often have no idea who is calling. I am struggling to figure out a way to politely answer callers who start with, “Is this Wendy?”

Currently I ask them to please identify themselves, but I have a difficult time not being curt. These are not just telemarketers, but my doctor’s office, the dishwasher repairman, the furniture delivery driver, and so on.

What do you recommend that I say when picking up the phone and getting asked if I am who I am?

GENTLE READER: “Who is asking, please?”

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to