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Miss Manners: If a death is preventable, is a sympathy card deserved?

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: A former classmate of my boyfriend’s passed away. My boyfriend and this classmate were not particularly close and had not spoken in several years. The classmate had a wife and child; he and his wife were incredibly anti-vaccine, and he died due to complications from covid.

In some sense, I feel angry that his daughter is now forced to grow up without a father due to his hesitation regarding the vaccine, but on the other hand, I feel sorry that his wife now has to raise her child alone and is suffering the loss of the love of her life.

I picked up a sympathy card but have reservations about sending it. If his death could have been prevented, is a sympathy card deserved?

You need not express sympathy you do not feel, as long as you do not express your less pleasant thoughts.

A death is a death, whatever the cause, and Miss Manners finds it unseemly to judge whether the bereaved “deserve” sympathy. But that attitude long precedes the pandemic. It is often said in regard to smokers and those deemed to eat in an unhealthy way or not to exercise enough.

That people often brag about being “nonjudgmental” has always puzzled Miss Manners. Of course everyone has opinions, and it would be ridiculous to refrain from having any standards.

But perhaps what that really means is refraining from delivering unsolicited criticism. Minding one's own business is indeed a virtue — a very rare one.

In any case, it is right to refrain from passing a last judgment — at least out loud.

Find the latest coronavirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dear Miss Manners: I am a new member of a social club, and occasionally host a (nonmember) friend for an exercise class and supper afterward. I prepay the small guest charge the day before to avoid awkwardness.

The club, however, includes the guest charge amount on the sign-in sheet. My friend then always insists on giving me cash for the class and the meal.

I was raised to pay for guests, and I love her company and we have a great time. I want to invite her again in the next month or two, but don’t want to keep ducking the money she tries to hand me. What should I do?

A social club is considered to be an extension of the members’ homes, and therefore it is as gauche for your guest to pay as it would be if she had tried to pay you for dinner at your house. The way to show appreciation for private hospitality is to reciprocate.

You must gently tell your guest that reimbursement from nonmembers is against the club rules. And if it is not, Miss Manners suggests that you propose the rule at the next meeting.

Dear Miss Manners: Should a child starring in a local play receive a gift?

A bouquet presented at the curtain call, in front of the other actors whose parents didn’t think of doing so?

Probably not. And not, Miss Manners would think, if the child’s parents are hoping that limelight will not outshine their hope of the child’s going to law school.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022 by Judith Martin