Gentle reader,

Miss Manners finds herself mildly excited at the thought of an etiquette dilemma more earthy than proper doily arrangement, but she must admit the phrase “knife fight” has never passed her lips. She has always handled her disputes over a quiet tea with raspberry scones. On those rare occasions when she has felt a knife-like comment was required, she was careful to whisper, so only the intended recipient was left bleeding. Metaphorically speaking.

Miss Manners will endeavor to offer advice which she hopes will help you be the perfect guest at your knife fight, and as well as perhaps keep you alive. You mention, gentle reader, that your invitation was printed on cream linen stationery and requested an RSVP. This means that you have a life-or-death moral imperative to observe the rules of etiquette and respond to the host as to whether or not you are available to attend your knife fight.

Can Miss Manners assume that you wish to decline attending your knife fight? If so, reply by checking the appropriate box on the response card which was enclosed with the invitation, and posting it as soon as possible. If there was no response card included—we are aware that some hosts are simply knife-in-their-teeth heathens—you should reply with a handwritten letter. I advise you to compose in blue or black ink, and with a steady hand and firm but polite language, decline your invitation. Attach a postage stamp squarely in the corner of the envelope, because a sloppily attached stamp indicates either inattention to detail, or the jitters, nether of which you should telegraph to your host.

Please be aware that in etiquette, there is no requirement for you to give the host a reason for being unable to attend your knife fight. Birthday, dental appointment; or perhaps you have received an invitation to a different knife fight on the same day and would rather attend the earlier one?

Miss Manners is aware that your host may not be happy with your decision to decline their invitation, but we know that etiquette is about diplomatically requesting and not demanding your attendance. Your host may send another invitation, on plain white paper and with more persuasive language. Or your host may simply dispense with invitations and appear at your front door, cutlery in hand. But any of these scenarios would represent a monumental fraying of the selvedge of the fabric of our social contract, which leaves Miss Manners gasping for breath.

You have asked Miss Manners her opinion on the proper type of knife to take to your knife fight, so you seem resigned to your fate. Miss Manners is puzzled, as we all should know that the host of a social event traditionally supplies the silverware. In any event, Miss Manners feels that a “boot knife” sounds unsanitary, while a knife hidden within a belt buckle may result in excess exposure when deployed. And a butterfly knife? That sounds too delicate for the task at hand. Miss Manners suggests visiting your local department store for one of those gift sets of a woodblock festooned with an assortment of kitchen knives. A cleaver is much more utilitarian and will also perhaps strike some fear in your host.

Your next question greatly distresses Miss Manners. You ask if etiquette allows you to bring a gun to your knife fight. Miss Manners is appalled at your suggestion. She must stress that for centuries, our code of etiquette has been focused on separating us from the beasts and promoting fairness in thought and deed. Even if the host has been remarkably barbaric with their invitation, bringing a gun to a knife fight is not in the spirit of being the perfect guest. End of discussion.

Miss Manners searches her mind for what else to offer. Have we covered the Invitation and RSVP? Check. Silverware to bring? Check. First aid kit? Your decision, but recommended. Miss Manners always advises guests to arrive on time, to not be the last guest to leave, and remember to not overindulge in finger foods or alcohol. Oh, and Miss Manners feels that the hour is far too late for you to enroll in a fencing class.

In conclusion, Miss Manners reminds you to thank your host, and not once, but twice. If you are not bleeding too badly, thank your host as you are leaving the social function, and thank them again within a few days by a written note, but only if the host is still among the living and can appreciate the effort you have put into a traditional form of correspondence. Miss Manners advises you to stick with an epistolary no more personal than “best wishes.” If any law enforcement personal or lawyers attend the function, rest assured that they will not expect a thank you note.

Gentle reader, Miss Manners hopes she has been informative and wishes to say that it would be wonderful if you report back your experience at your knife fight. Miss Manners is, to pardon the pun, dying to know, because she is involved in a business which can be fraught with emotion and misinterpretation, and as such, Miss Manners may in the future find that a gentle—yet very disgruntled—reader may post her an invitation to a knife fight.


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