Miss Manners: Selective wedding gratitude is hard to understand

October 24, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was at a wedding for which I drove a total of 19 hours there and back, only to find the following line on the back of the ceremony program: “In lieu of thank-you notes, we will be making a donation to the American Cancer Society.”

This greatly upset me and many of the guests I was with. Is this a new tradition or is this completely inappropriate?

GENTLE READER: This stance — “We don’t have to be polite to you because we care so much about others” — has been around for some time now. It is cited to cover a range of bad behavior, from yelling at strangers in the street to — as in this case — trampling on the feelings of friends and family.

What puzzles Miss Manners is how this is rationalized. How does the admirable act of giving to charity cancel out the need to express gratitude?

No doubt this couple expects acknowledgment from the American Cancer Society (indeed, they need it to take a tax deduction), yet they believe it does themselves credit to refuse to acknowledge the generosity of others.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I are having a continual battle over our window coverings. I believe it is rude for us to keep our blinds open, particularly at night. She does not think so. Is there etiquette for window coverings?

GENTLE READER: That would be Don’t Frighten the Neighbors. But Miss Manners would advise not interesting them too much, either.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A few of our neighbors get together and have neighborhood socials. Some of the socials are Halloween, Christmas cookie exchange and Christmas parties.

In each of the invitations, the hosts request that everyone provide an hors d’oeuvre or dish, and they provide the house, a dish and wine.

One of the hostesses mentioned that if you come, you need to reciprocate. It doesn’t look like any of the neighbors are reciprocating, unless it’s a one-on-one dinner with them.

What is proper? My husband doesn’t have anything in common with any of them, and some of the hosts and hostesses are very heavy drinkers, which turns him off. He goes because I like most of the people.

GENTLE READER: You like them in their houses, you mean, but not in yours. But that is not the way social life is supposed to work.

Miss Manners understands these to be cooperative parties, in which the same few people provide the venues, and are feeling put upon because others won’t. Inviting the hosts by themselves does show appreciation, but it is not the same as assuming responsibility for the neighborhood-wide parties, which apparently everyone, including you (although not your husband), enjoys.

Perhaps a neighborhood committee is in order, at which people can divide the chores more reasonably. For example, people who don’t have such parties at their houses might form a clean-up committee for those who do. The plea for equivalent effort is legitimate, although a hostess shouldn’t have had to make it.

And please remember that the hosts’ shortcomings are irrelevant once you have overcome these enough to accept their hospitality.

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

2012, by Judith Martin

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