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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Phone Calls, Mail Are Private Property

Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: My wife actually gets angry if I ask her whom she was talking to when she gets off the phone. It seems to me that a married couple should be able to ask each other whom they were talking to and get a civil answer. Her belligerent attitude stifles conversation, and I don’t like it one bit.

I don’t mind her asking me whom I was talking to, and I don’t mind discussing what we were talking about, but she acts like her phone conversations are none of my business. Help!

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners doesn’t want to sound belligerent either, but although there are many intimacies that are basic to marriage, monitoring your spouse’s mail and telephone calls is not one of them.

These matters are only your business if your wife decides to make them so. Your best hope is to keep showing a general interest in your wife’s friends and associates so she will be inclined to share their news with you.

Dear Miss Manners: Since it is the ‘90s and women are out and about without being escorted by males, the question of who should do the driving has often come up. Some feel that the person farthest away should be the one to drive, so no one has to double back. Others feel that the person planning the event should be the one to drive.

However, if one person is a great organizer, the others tend to just sit back.

If it is suggested that everyone take a turn driving the group, then someone is bound to say, “Everyone meet at my house and then I’ll drive.” I feel that is unfair, because if you have to get into a car to drive to someone’s house, you might as well just do the driving.

Gentle Reader: Is that the crime-free ‘90s you are talking about - when ladies are in no special danger from being out alone after dark?

Never mind. If you are willing to have gentlemen see them to their cars when that seems warranted, Miss Manners will acknowledge that this is not a situation where gender is socially relevant. It sounds like a group expedition, where the tasks should be parceled out with some rough fairness.

This doesn’t mean that everyone has to take a turn driving (it is possible that someday you will all meet a nice person who doesn’t have a car), nor that the driver is chosen through an impartial ruling.

It means that your great organizer has one more thing to do: assigning tasks based on who doesn’t mind doing what. Fairness does not consist so much in everybody’s doing the same thing, but in everybody’s being willing to do something that others don’t want to do.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband received an e-mail invitation to a wedding reception for an acquaintance of his at work. The couple were already married.

We did not attend the reception, but we did buy them a gift. That was several weeks ago, and we have not received any thanks, by e-mail or otherwise.

Please let me have your thoughts on proper protocol regarding e-mail invitations. Are such invitations more casual than the written kind, or are they just the new trend in high-tech companies? Were we not expected to send a gift? How would you suggest we respond if this happens again?

Gentle Reader: Sure, e-mail is less formal than engraving or the cheaper and even nicer alternative, handwriting, both of which are still in proper service. You knew that.

What you encountered must have been a slapdash attempt to capture the advantages of formality without the effort. It’s just the sort of thing one might expect from people who are happy to receive presents (which you needn’t have sent, unless you felt a gracious urge to give people something to symbolize your warm feeling for them) but are unwilling to make the effort to acknowledge them.

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

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