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Miss Manners: The less said about bathroom reading material, the better

Dear Miss Manners: Do you think it’s tacky to have magazines in the guest bathroom? These would be decorator magazines.

Gentle Reader: The subject of the magazine is hardly the point – although that is not to suggest that context does not make some print offerings more alarming than others. Miss Manners is thinking of a friend who included her premed anatomy text on her shelf of cookbooks to see if anyone was paying attention.

Beyond that, she has no objection to bathroom reading material, even though she is too polite to inquire about anything that goes on behind the bathroom door. If pressed, she will admit only to a lack of space to shelve all her reading material in the library.

Generosity gone wrong

Dear Miss Manners: I volunteer for, and contribute to, a local charity. At an appreciation luncheon for 20 volunteers at a local restaurant, five volunteers sat at each table, along with a representative of the charity.

As soon as the representative for my table sat down, one of the other women announced that the charity shouldn’t spend money buying her lunch and handed the representative $20. The woman next to me, whom I don’t know well, immediately reached into her purse and pulled out $20. She turned expectantly to me.

I told her, truthfully, that I had only $3. She laughed, pulled out a $10, and gave the rep $30. I said thank you.

Of course I’ll pay her back, but was this correct behavior? No one else from our table gave the rep any money, and a friend of mine at another table said no one at her table gave anything. Were we obligated to offer to pay? Should the rep have accepted the money?

Gentle Reader: As it is the business of charities to collect donations, Miss Manners understands why the representative failed to decline the contribution. And as it is virtuous to contribute, she understands that the volunteer felt she was being generous.

But between them, they managed to undermine the purpose of the occasion and to cause embarrassment to innocent people.

When the appreciation luncheon was proposed, the lady could have spoken out, as a participant in the charity, suggesting that while the gesture was appreciated, perhaps all volunteers would like to pay their own way. Or she could have declined the invitation for herself. Or she could have quietly increased her donation.

What she did instead was to make a show of denying the hosts their generosity and bullying others into doing the same. That is not what Miss Manners would consider a charitable attitude.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin.