Q. What is the correct way of announcing that I am divorced? Do I send out cards (and if so, how are they properly worded)? Can I give a party? Hire a billboard? Shout it from the housetops? I don't want to do anything in poor taste, but I am delighted with my new freedom, and want to let people know about it.
A. This will come as a shock, but society's laws about which events one may rejoice over and which one may not, do not necessarily correspond to the true feelings of the participant. For example, if your nasty, crotchety, quarrelsome, critical old great-uncle dies and leaves you a fortune, you must try to look solemn, if not actually grieved.
If your 14-year-old daughter is having a baby, you are supposed to act delighted. You may call this hypocrisy. As a matter of fact, Miss Manners calls it hypocrisy, too. The difference is probably that you don't consider hypocrisy one of the social graces, and she does.
In any case, one does not brag about a divorce, however much personal satisfaction it may bring one. There is no formal announcement. Anything along the lines of hiring an airplane to write it in skywriting is considered to be in poor taste.
But naturally, you want everyone to know. Miss Manners appreciates that. If you can announce a change of name or address and explain that it is a result of your recent divorce, that is a solution. You may even give a party, provided that the excuse is not the divorce itself, but a result of it, such as a party to show off your newly-decorated house, even if the redecoration is only the fact that you have put your clothes in both bedroom closets after emptying one of them of someone else's clothes.
Failing this pretext, you must be alert for opportunities of working the news into conversation. This is not difficult. If someone so much as says "How are you?" you may answer, "Well, I think everything is settled down now, since the divorce." Miss Manners simply urges you, for the sake of propriety, to keep a straight face.
Q. My stepdaughter is getting married at a wedding affair which will include the immediate family only. The bride and groom are paying for the wedding dinner afterward.
Is it correct for me to hostess a luncheon or shower for the bride? Is it correct for other family members, (aunts, cousins, friends) to give a shower, even though none of the hostesses or guests will be invited to the wedding?
A. Showers are tricky, and a lot of people get caught in them.
It's that word, "shower," that sounds so threatening. Shower with what? you may ask. The answer is that the shower is the only form of grown-up entertainment at which a present is mandatory. Naturally, you only invite people to weddings because you want to share with them that event -- not because you think they might kick in with something sterling.
Therefore, one cannot give a shower for a relative -- not a step-daughter, nor a niece, not a cousin or anything else. Nor can prospective in-laws give them. Only friends.
Now that Miss Manners has spoiled your lovely impulse to honor your stepdaughter and to include friends who will not be able to participate in the wedding -- go right ahead and do it. Just call the event a luncheon, a tea party or a reception, instead of a shower.