Miss Manners: Charitable donors may be forgiven for their excess

March 26, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it ever acceptable to donate money at all levels of giving so that one’s name appears multiple times on a program?

We are not talking about endowing a trombone and, for example, a musical chair, but at the friend level, the donor level, the patron level ... well, you get the picture.

If one can afford to give at all levels, the assumption is made that one would give only once at the highest level, even if one’s donation far exceeded the lower limit of, say, $15,000 for top recognition.

These same donors, while their obvious generosity was appreciated, donated numerous very high-priced auction items (trips to their expensive vacation home, etc.) and made certain they were listed as purchasers of the more expensive items and, I might add, many of them. What is to be made of this behavior?

GENTLE READER: There was such a chap, Miss Manners recalls, who gave to all possible causes at all levels. She did not actually know him. Apparently, nobody did, as he seems to have been a modest person, who gave for the sake of helping causes, with no interest in glorifying himself.

His name was Anonymous. He doesn’t seem to get around much anymore.

But as this is about charity, you might exhibit some toward those often-named donors. Perhaps it was the beneficiaries who plastered those names around, because they thought it was expected, or to encourage others to give. And it is reasonable to expect that before bidding on using someone’s house, one would want to know whose house it was.

In any case, Miss Manners supposes that while it does, indeed, make the philanthropists look a bit foolish to insert themselves at all levels on the same program, there are worse ways to buy publicity.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would like to know if it is strange that my ex-wife has asked my son to walk her down the aisle for her third marriage. My son walked her down the aisle for her second marriage without my knowledge.

I’ve never heard of such a thing, with her father, brother and uncle still alive. I’m just a little creeped out.

GENTLE READER: Frankly, so is Miss Manners. Yet it is often done.

The almost universal notion that a bride must be given away by a man is, of course, highly anachronistic. But that does not bother Miss Manners. If anything, she is rather charmed by seeing a proudly independent lady reverting, on this important family occasion, to being daddy’s little girl.

But there are situations in which the symbolism becomes offensive. A common one springs from mistaken, upside-down thinking that counts gender as more important than shared history in what they call this “role.” And indeed, many think of it as a role to be cast with someone who looks the part of a father, rather than someone who has actually played the part, as it were.

Thus a single mother may be overlooked while a male who had little or nothing to do with rearing the bride is chosen. And for a son to “give away” his mother is particularly unfortunate symbolically. Logically, a previous husband might give her away, as he doesn’t need her any longer, but Miss Manners does not recommend that.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

, by Judith Martin

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