Q. During these days of hazy hedonism and new moralities affecting young and old, I often find myself perplexed. Can you help me?
How do I, appreciating the delicacy of various commitments, plan sleeping accommodations for house guests who are not married but who appear to be "going together" with some intensity? We have ample room to place guests in comfortable quarters as singles or doubles.
I would be extremely dismayed to discover that I had bedded down two guests in the same facility if this pair was not an intimate duo, or if the couple wished to present a facade of respectability, or if they were only platonic friends. How do I tactfully inquire what their status might be, without embarrassment to anyone concerned, and particularly to myself? I have my own values and attitudes with respect to this subject, but have no desire to inflict these on my guests.
A. This is a troublesome question for many people in the chaos you describe as "these days," but you have taken two sensible precautions that make the solution easier for you to manage then for most people.
First, you have decided not to involve yourself in the morals of your guests. Attempting to direct the intimate activities of one's guests always leads to disaster, even when the hosts are the parents of the houseguests. Only in a parent-minor child relationship do we ever have the opportunity to try grafting our own moral position on to others. After that, the most we can do to houseguests is to regulate their social conduct. In other words, you can assign people separate rooms, but you cannot insist that they stay in them after dark.
This brings Miss Manners to your second sensible decision, that of inhabiting a house big enough to accommodate guests in a variety of arrangements. This makes it simple for you to put your couples in single, adjoining rooms, and to refuse to worry about where they end up.
For those who have smaller houses, or if you feel you must know which rooms are really to be used and which not, you may inquire, as if you were a hotel keeper, "How many rooms will you require?" This leaves you wide open for the smartsy guest who replies, "Oh, just a bedroom, a sitting room and a dressing room," but so be it.
You can then suggest a conveniently located hotel.
Q. My dear husband passed away last week, and I am concerned about doing the correct acknowledgements. Do I send acknowledgements to everyone who attended the funeral services? Do I acknowledge sympathy cards purchased in a card shop? Anyone who brought food to my house? Contributions? People who wrote me beautiful letters?
I received about 200 condolences -- where do I draw the line?
A. After you have written a letter to each person who wrote you or sent a contribution in your husband's name, however long that takes, you may draw the line. (Of course, you thanked donors of food as they brought it.)
Miss Manners will then defend you from people who believe that funeral appearances or sympathy cards should be acknowledged -- and some of these will attack, simply because people love to torture the bereaved on any excuse -- on the grounds that attending the funeral is simply a mark of respect to your husband and an outlet for their own sorrow at his death, and that greeting cards are an impersonal and minimal form of communication.
The charitable contributions, of whatever size, were made on behalf of your husband and you must represent him in expressing gratitude. And any person who cares enough about him or you or both to write a letter should be appreciated, and answered in kind. "Thank you for your kindness. It means a great deal to me" will do, if it is in your own hand.