Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I have had a long-standing disagreement that we just can't get past. I'm willing to accept your answer, although my husband will probably only accept your answer if you agree with him.

He says pepper should go in the shaker with the most holes because it is coarser than salt (assume the holes are the same size on each shaker). The shakers that started this never-ending argument are shaped like Pilgrims. The male has three holes and the female has two. So, I believe that doubly proves it: Salt should always be in the male shaker. I recently purchased a new set (aha!) that clearly have "Salt" and "Pepper" painted on each one — the salt has five holes and the pepper has three. He says that the company that made them is wrong. To add to my woes, his side of the family agrees with him, and my side agrees with me. So, I don't get it, or do I?

Gentle Reader: You don't seem to get the fact that this argument is not about salt and pepper but about taking sides, regardless of facts. But, then, Miss Manners doesn't get the part about salt's being obviously intended for the male shaker and would prefer that you not explain it to her.

As people generally take more salt than pepper, shakers are designed to release more. Miss Manners hopes this will be of some comfort to you when your husband and his family refuse to believe it.

Dear Miss Manners: I have accepted to be a bridesmaid in a good friend's wedding. My date is my girlfriend of three years whom the bride, groom and mutual friends know well. I am proud of who I am, but know that there are others that believe very differently.

What I am hoping you could advise me on is how (and who) to ask whether the guests of the bride and groom may know that we are together. Though I will spend most of the night attending to the bride, I want to know ahead of time whether I will be able to share a dance or two with my girlfriend without offending relatives or taking attention off of the couple. I believe my friend would tell me to go ahead because she is very accepting. I am in contact with her mother and sister in the planning of the shower (though I don't know them well); would they be a better judge of the situation?

Gentle Reader: While appreciating your concern at not upsetting the wedding guests, Miss Manners would not advise your polling people about a mere dance or two. The family is bound to be able to think of someone who would not approve, thus worrying them about a scene that is unlikely to happen.

After you have done your bridesmaid duties, which may include dancing with an usher or two, you and your date should just join the general dancing. Had there been previous discussion, everyone, whether they can be classified as "accepting" or not, will be saying, "Look, there they are." Un-alerted, some of the very people who might have disapproved will say, "What a shame they didn't invite more young men; the young ladies have to dance with each other."


Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com — if you promise to use the black or blue-black ink you'll save by writing those thank you, condolence and congratulations letters you owe. © Judith Martin Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.