Dear Miss Manners: I know that married couples are always supposed to be invited as a pair, the exception being when there’s a single-gender event, such as a bachelor party or bridal shower. However, what is the rule for inviting a same-sex partner when the spouse would usually be left out?
Hypothetical: I’m planning a women-only baby shower. The mother-to-be gives me a list of her close friends and relatives to invite. On the list is Aunt Abby (blood relative), who is married to Aunt Sal. Aunt Sal and the mother-to-be are not close.
If Aunt Sal were instead Uncle Sal, he would not expect to be invited, because it’s a women-only party. But is it rude to invite Aunt Sal when no one else gets a plus-one?
The idea that only women might be interested in celebrating a birth is one steeped in sexist tradition — and yet the custom prevails. Perhaps because most women are too polite to point out that “Guess what’s in the diaper?” is gross, and watching someone open presents is not entertainment.
However, if you insist on doing it, then you do not get to make up new rules because it suits another outdated expectation: that a woman would be married to a man.
It would be Miss Manners’ preference to eliminate the gender separation altogether, making the party’s eligibility based instead on interested parties: close family members and friends, including their spouses.
Either way, Aunt Sal should get to go. Whether she wants to is another question.
Dear Miss Manners: Is it not perfectly acceptable for a sister-in-law to call to have a brother-in-law visit his brother’s, her husband’s, child?
I am that sister-in-law, and my irritating, obnoxious sister-in-law (that brother-in-law’s wife) tried to make it seem as if it was an unheard-of thing to do: “I could never see myself calling to have my husband’s brother visit his brother’s child.”
Neither her husband nor mine (nor even myself, stupidly) corrected her at the time. I wish I had, because even with logic, there is nothing wrong with that. I know it is a rule of etiquette.
And yet both the logic and the etiquette escape Miss Manners at the moment. (As did the relationships, at first, but she thinks she has sorted them out. An uncle is being asked to visit a niece or nephew, correct? Why so many “in-laws,” “husbands” and “brothers”?)
No one should be either demanding or avoiding contact with relatives. Ideally, it is voluntary. However, if you think that young Finley sorely misses playing video games with his uncle and would greatly benefit from one of his awesome pep talks, then you might phrase it as such — rather than issuing a guilt-ridden demand, which is probably where all of this went off the rails in the first place.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
©2022, by Judith Martin