June 8, 2011 in Features

Hunt down out-of-touch ‘friends’ – politely

Judith Martin, United Feature Syndicate
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For years now, I have had people’s phone numbers sitting in my mobile like everyone else; some I do call, and some I don’t. I have debated time and time again as to whether or not I should call the people who I haven’t spoken with in years to see if they would like to meet and “hang out,” for lack of better term.

We parted with no bad blood, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that they have all moved on, and at best have no room for me in their lives. At worst, they may not want to speak with me due to a nasty rumor or two. Still, I wonder: what if I did make contact with them? How do I know that they want nothing to do with me?

We haven’t spoke in so long, maybe they keep thinking the same thing about me when they look at my number. I was just wondering, what does etiquette dictate in these circumstances?

GENTLE READER: Looking up people with whom one has lost touch is practically the national pastime now that so many have made themselves available on Internet social sites. So Miss Manners appreciates your reminding her to explain how to do this politely.

As you surmise, not all such approaches are welcome, nasty rumors or not, although many are, and it is worth trying. One should give the other person the choice – but first, one should give the opportunity to figure out that caller-out-of-the-blue is.

Thus writing, electronic or not, is better than telephoning. You can explain fully who you are, so that the recipient can say gracefully, “Of course I remember you.” Then you say you would love to hear from that person. Then you wait.

No response? With all the “friend” requests careening around, one cannot afford, emotionally, to take silence as an insult. People are otherwise occupied, overwhelmed, forgetful, careless and – oh, yes, they may not have liked you back then. All the more loss for them, considering the fine person you presumably turned into since.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Lately, I’m receiving a number of business and alumni invitations that begin with “the honor of your presence is requested…”

I thought this wording was only appropriate for use for a ceremony in a church or synagogue.

Am I hopelessly old-fashioned? What are the uses for “pleasure of your company” and “honour (or lately, honor) of your presence”? Please bring me up to date.

GENTLE READER: The latest development is that people keep getting it wrong.

Actually this has been going on for some time now, more than half a century. The rise of the cult of informality did not, as would have been reasonable, lead to using informal forms. Rather, it led to scrambling formal forms until the traditional wording was forgotten.

But not by you or Miss Manners. You are correct that “honour” or (equally correctly and more suitably for Americans) “honor of your presence” is for services held in a house of worship, and “pleasure of your company” for those that are not.

Judith Martin is the author of “Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding.” You may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@ unitedmedia.com.


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