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Past Relationship Reflects On Card’s Meaning

Fri., Jan. 16, 1998

Dear Miss Manners: About 10 years ago, when I was in college and lonely, I began celebrating Valentine’s Day by sending valentines to several females of my acquaintance, purely as a gesture of friendship, and to relatives (my mother, grandmother, sister, nieces and in-laws). I have continued to send the cards each year, even though I, and many of the recipients, are now happily married.

One year, one of those recipients related to me the objection of her husband, who thought the practice unseemly. (I might note that once we were rivals for her affections, but those days are over, I assure you. She made her choice, I made mine, and we have gone our separate ways. The card is the only correspondence between us - or it was until I dropped her from the list in response to the complaint.)

Am I out of line in continuing to send valentine’s cards? It is a practice I enjoy, and I know it brings pleasure to some, if not all, of the recipients. I am certain that, for some, the card I send is the only one they will receive. And if the practice is acceptable, who should I, and should I not, send them to?

Gentle Reader: Just a minute. What was that you slipped in amid all those hearts and flowers?

Miss Manners was dreamily perusing your letter, picturing you as a dear sentimental little thing, reluctant to give up the innocent practice of using valentines to pour out your affection to everyone you know. Then she got to the part about your having been the husband’s rival.

That makes your current expression of love for this particular lady a little different from the love you send your mother-in-law, doesn’t it? (Or maybe it doesn’t. These days you can never tell.)

In any case, there are valentines and valentines, and one sent by a former suitor carries a more specific meaning than those that express friendship or family affection. However pure your friendship for the lady now, the implication is that you are still pining. Most people keep in once-a-year touch through Christmas or New Year’s cards.

Miss Manners is not going to be a meanyboots and tell you never to send valentines. It may well be that you brighten the life of many people.

But this lady is not one of them, or she would neither have passed on her husband’s objection nor omitted suggesting another way to keep in touch. The rule about all correspondence is that it be directed to people who you have reason to assume will be pleased to receive it.

Dear Miss Manners: The day after a dear, elderly neighbor was buried, I asked her niece if I could pick up my fan I had loaned the aunt and a heater that another neighbor had loaned. In a rage, the niece informed me that I was asking before her aunt was yet cold in her grave.

I meant no disrespect for the deceased, and I had done everything I could for her in her lifetime. Her niece had the responsibility of the funeral arrangements and was probably stressed. I have apologized for upsetting her.

Was I really out of line in my timing?

Gentle Reader: Evidently. You upset the niece, didn’t you? Isn’t that what a decent interval between condolences and going for the goods is intended to prevent?

Miss Manners understands that you were not motivated by greed, as, alas, are many who are eager to get to the deceased’s belongings; you were simply picking up borrowed items. She even understands that you wanted to accomplish this before they got mixed in with the aunt’s possessions.

Nevertheless, it is jarring to begin dismantling the household of someone you loved. If you couldn’t wait until the niece started, you should have paid your condolence call first, and only added as you left that you could pick up borrowed things whenever the niece was ready.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate


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