DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have an acquaintance who is a big fan of your work. Apparently in service of that, he often corrects other people’s manners in ways that can be aggressive and even, on occasion, mean-spirited.
For example, a man told him that, after the death of his child, he sent thank-you notes to those who had sent flowers and gifts but not to those who sent cards.
Hearing this, my acquaintance never even said “sorry for your loss” before berating the man’s lapse in etiquette and mocking his distinction between gifts and letters.
When the bereaved man said he didn’t expect thank-you notes when he sent sympathy cards, my acquaintance said his argument was specious and it showed that the man didn’t send proper sympathy notes.
GENTLE READER: Just what the world needs – a perverted version of etiquette that spreads unpleasantness. And who better to pick on than a newly bereaved father?
As it happens, a mere signed card does not absolutely require a response the way a condolence letter would. Your acquaintance is not a follower of Miss Manners. He is moving in the opposite direction.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We’ve learned to be discriminating in whom we invite to our small, remote home in the woods, owing to the tight quarters (it’s a one-room cabin) and limited resources (no grocery stores, difficult access and limited solar power and clean water).
We love sharing the natural beauty of this place with friends and family who we anticipate will appreciate the challenges of living off the grid. But our guests’ tales and photos of their visits inspire other, less-suited friends and family members to ask to visit. The problem with saying, “We’re sorry. We’re not prepared to host you” to some people is that we want to keep the door open to others whom they know.
GENTLE READER: How about a new rule for roughing it in the woods: that those favored friends and family respect your privacy by not posting about their stays with you?
As a rule, you need not supply any excuse to those who are so bold as to issue their own invitations. “I’m sorry, it’s not possible” is enough, and you may still invite whomever else you please. But if these are close relatives and friends, you could say, “Really, you wouldn’t be happy here – it’s very primitive, and we wouldn’t be able to make you comfortable. But we’d love to see you when we are in town.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last year, my brother-in-law and his wife had a large, beautiful wedding ceremony planned, and like so many others, their plans changed with pandemic restrictions.
The pair decided instead to get married in a small ceremony with just a couple of people. Although not in attendance, my husband and I purchased gifts and sent them to their home to celebrate their nuptials.
This summer, the couple is having the ceremony and large party they wanted last summer (the deposits were already paid anyway), and we will be in attendance. Should we give them another wedding gift?
GENTLE READER: Would you ordinarily give one present for the legal ceremony and another for the reception? Miss Manners does not consider a re-enactment to count as another wedding.
Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.