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Miss Manners: Dishwasher melodrama easy to avoid

Dear Miss Manners: I like to load the dishwasher with the silverware facing down. My mother prefers faceup. While we can all argue about who is correct, that’s not my question. I know I’m right.

When my mother, who frequents my home, helps clean up by loading the dishwasher, she insists on loading it her way. I’ve asked several times for her to load it my preferred way. After all, this is my house, and if her goal is to help, cutting my hand on a sharp knife isn’t very helpful.

Her response is that I’m ungrateful and should appreciate her help. Who is right?

Gentle Reader: Since you’ve already stated that you are, Miss Manners finds herself hesitant to cross you – especially since you already have blood quite literally on your hands.

Just as you are certain that you are correct, so is your mother, and it doesn’t seem likely that either of you is going to back down. Why don’t you agree to load your own dishes in your own homes – and ask for help with serving those dishes instead?

Irksome behavior at the table

Dear Miss Manners: When individuals from different cultures marry and have different table manners, how does the one who finds the other’s table manners irritating or embarrassing politely convey a less offensive way for her or his partner to eat?

My grandmother from the Old South was offended at the table behavior of my Connecticut Yankee grandfather, whose family had been dirt farmers. Grandpa ate his peas with his knife. Her approach was to turn a cold shoulder, which only made him laugh loudly and hum “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Do you have any advice that could have saved their marriage? It ended in divorce.

Gentle Reader: So you see where bad manners can lead. Wars have been started over less. A husband who knowingly irritates his wife in the name of cultural customs is not likely trying to keep her.

Beware of cultural practices that are used to vex others – or extract money from them. (Eating with your knife is never polite – not to mention, highly dangerous.)

Marriages with different cultures and legitimate customs must set ground rules. Anything so annoying that it leads to divorce should be high on the list for elimination.

Miss Manners certainly acknowledges regional etiquette differences, but – particularly where there are children involved – advises giving preference to the manners of the society in which the family resides.

Judith Martin’s daughter, Jacobina Martin, co-wrote this column. Send email to