Repeat After Me

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dear Miss Manners:

The other day I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles renewing my driver's license. I mentioned to the examiner while he was processing my check that I would be returning in a few months to change my name on my license after getting married. He responded, "Why would you want to get married?" I was pretty surprised. I managed to say it was because I love my fiance, but it was really uncomfortable. How should I respond when people say this? This isn't the first time that I have received this response after mentioning that I am engaged.

First, please promise Miss Manners that you will deliver this line just as she says. You don't want to insult anyone by being sarcastic. And besides, you want to get your driver's license renewed.

For a minute, do not say anything, as if you were thinking the question over. Then allow a modest smile to appear, and your eyes to take on a dreamy, inward look. In a soft voice, almost apologetically, say: "Oh, I can't explain. You wouldn't understand."

And then quickly say something entirely different before your questioner realizes what has been revealed about his or her own life.

Dear Miss Manners:

My wife of two years passed away from brain cancer two weeks ago. I held her memorial this last Saturday. Two women have asked when will I transfer my wedding ring from my left hand to the right. Being a man, I am unaware of such a requirement.

Miss Manners, I am perfectly content to wear my wedding ring exactly where my wife placed it until it is my time to pass to God. However, I also want to do what is correct. I am 61 years old and have no intention to marry again. I have noticed that many women who divorce or are widowed do move the wedding ring to the right hand, or do not wear it at all.

Please help me with this question of proper and respectful ring wear.

Etiquette has -- and wants -- nothing whatever to do with the placement of widows' and widowers' wedding rings. It neither rips them away from the bereaved nor sniffs if they are moved.

Miss Manners is afraid that your advisers have their own agenda. And you are right that there is an issue here of respect -- but it is the respect that these ladies have failed to show for your wife, who so recently died, and for you.

The widowed move their rings if and when they no longer want to appear to be currently married or in a state of mourning that would discourage possibly romantic overtures. To suggest that you do so is an unwarranted liberty at any time; to do so when you are freshly in mourning is also an insult to the seriousness of your loss.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) atMissManners@unitedmedia.comor mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2006Judith Martin

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