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Miss Manners: It’s a party, not a fundraiser

Fri., Sept. 3, 2010

DEAR MISS MANNERS – My wife and I invited a number of people to a party on a Saturday evening in the party room of our downtown condo. One couple we invited are friends of friends. We don’t know them well, but they invited us to their daughter’s bat mitzvah (we went and gave her a small gift), and we subsequently went to dinner with them.

Their e-mailed response to our invitation was that they were checking their calendar to see if they could come, but meanwhile, they were “curious whether this is a strictly social event, or whether it’s also a fundraiser.” They went on to say that they were “probably available in either scenario, but thought it important to let you know that we’ve pretty much finalized our donation-planning for the year, and do not anticipate expanding it right now.”

In our e-mailed response, we said we were surprised by the question, that the party was for the fun and enjoyment of our friends, and they should simply let us know if they would attend. Miss Manners, is it now necessary to offer a disclaimer on an invitation? Or should we ask if their daughter’s bat mitvah was a fundraiser?

GENTLE READER – Faux hospitality – in which guests are expected to buy tickets, donate money to a cause and/or make tangible contributions to the larder or the hosts – is rampant, and no doubt these people have been fooled before by what appear to be social invitations.

However, that is no excuse for their implied accusation against you. It is a bit like people who have had bad romances projecting their grudges onto subsequent suitors.

Miss Manners considers the reply you made to be sufficient to alert these people that they have cast suspicion on people who were only trying to please them. She understands your impulse to be snippy in addition but asks you to let it go.

DEAR MISS MANNERS – Could you please explain to me exactly what is appropriate when female attire should be a cocktail dress? I’m going on a cruise for my 20th anniversary, and the dress code is described as being formal for one night with the suggestion that the gentlemen wear tuxes and the ladies cocktail dresses.

I did look up the term on the Internet and explored some of the images at some of the online dress shops. All I can say is that the examples I’ve seen online don’t look very formal and certainly don’t look appropriate for a woman in her 40s with a figure that can only be described as matronly!

GENTLE READER – And what is wrong with a matronly figure, Miss Manners would like to know? (However, what is wrong with putting tiny, sleeveless, strapless mini dresses on it is something she does know.)

It is odd that the term “cocktail dress” is still used, considering that no one has dressed up just for a drinks party since 1965. Still, it is preferable to the horrid oxymorons in current use, such as “elegant casual.”

What is meant is that you should dress up – luxurious fabric, jewelry, perhaps some tasteful decollete – but not wear something floor length.

Actually, Miss Manners wouldn’t worry too much about the dress itself. On shipboard, you will want a cover-up for romantic walks on the moonlit deck, and grown-up ladies look fine in scarves, shawls and stoles.

If you would like a copy of Miss Manners’ newsletters, “On Cellular Phone Courtesy,” “The Etiquette of Proper Eating” or “Proper Wedding Planning,” please send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope and $2 (per newsletter) to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Please state which newsletter(s) you wish to receive.


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