July 15, 2011 in Features

Friend’s lack of thanks earns him no leniency

Judith Martin
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A family friend was arrested at an airport in another state for having neglected to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge some years earlier, and he was taken to jail. Among several other of his friends, my wife, my daughter and I all wrote individual letters to the judge, stating our respect for him and pleading for leniency.

He spent about seven days in jail before being released and sentenced to probation. We were told that the letters definitely helped.

While this experience was truly upsetting for him, and I understand the desire to return to normal life, he appears to have made no effort at all to acknowledge the letters written on his behalf. I’m not asking for a thank-you note on stationery, but a simple phone call, affirming the friendship and saying, very simply, “I am grateful for your kind words to the judge.”

Am I out of line to desire this? His neglect is eroding the respect that I have held for him.

GENTLE READER: It is of peculiar interest to Miss Manners that your friend’s misdemeanor conviction and subsequent failure to meet his legal obligation to appear in court did not erode your respect. Only his etiquette lapse accomplished that.

Not that she is surprised. In theory, morals are more important than manners (although they are closely related, and there are moral reasons underlying the principles of manners), and obeying the law is more important than obeying the rules of etiquette.

In real life, however, one sometimes hears of murderers being forgiven by their victims’ families – and yet of other murders being committed to avenge a mere word or gesture of disrespect. It appears that etiquette violations can be considered more galling than crime.

So Miss Manners understands your reaction to your friend’s lapse. However, you might want to reconsider whether his disregard for rules was, in the case of the misdemeanor, an aberration.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it all right for a bride to wear a wedding dress inspired by some historical era, such as Victorian or Edwardian, or does this fall into the “wedding-as-a-show” category? What if the entire wedding decor is inspired by a historical era? I find modern styles much less beautiful.

GENTLE READER: There are two reasons that Miss Manners can think of that would justify wearing a wedding dress that is obviously a Victorian or Edwardian period piece or copy of one:

• That it is the bride’s great-grandmother’s dress, in which case Miss Manners hopes she was also left the corset that gave Great-Grandmother a 17-inch waist.

• Or that there has been a hundred-year engagement, and it had already been bought.

That you are putting on a historical pageant certainly falls into the vulgar showtime category.

But if by “inspired” you mean a dress that, in contrast to modern wedding dresses, comes complete with a top part, Miss Manners is all for it.

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