Here are two sad stories, with a social moral from Miss Manners.
Sad story one:
Eloise and "Mac" Druffin, a popular couple with a knack for fitting in anywhere, were delighted with their new assignment. Not only was it a significant promotion for him, but everyone in the new town seemed so eager to welcome them.
As president of the company, he naturally had a great many social obligations, but Eloise Druffin was a great planner with a flair for both large parties and small dinners. And, of course, they were entertained constantly by people in equivalent positions.
Although they both put in a good day's work, they were still fresh practically every night for the cocktail parties, dinners, usually in restaurants or clubs, and occasional company trips, which gave them a rich social life. The company paid all the bills, but Mac Druffin had enough polish to get his business exchanges done quietly, and to keep the talk pleasantly general. Mainly, anyway, the value was for the "contacts."
"Everybody's so friendly here," Mrs. Druffin was fond of exclaiming. "Why, they hardly let us have a night to ourselves."
That was one reason, after the shock of Mr. Druffin's being forced out of his job, that the couple decided to stay in their beautiful new house. The "retirement" had been done gracefully, so there were no financial problems.
But there was another shock in store. The invitations dropped off suddenly, and have now almost ceased. "People are so fickle here," says Mrs. Druffin bitterly. "They only cared about us for the job, not for ourselves."
Sad story two:
For 43 years, Anna Quiggle had toiled faithfully in the same office, gaining respect, if not promotions.
During that time, she had also served as counselor, tear wiper, professional adviser and romantic confidante to generations of younger people who had come and gone. Occasionally, she still gets a post card or marriage or birth announcement from one, and tries to put that together with one of those bygone office faces.
Her husband and children knew these people as characters in the anecdotes, sometimes funny, sometimes not, that she told at the dinner table. But her husband has been dead for some time now, and her grown children are living in other cities, so even the names of those who attended Mrs. Quiggle's retirement party would not have been known to them.
It was one of the company's better parties, with flowers and presents for the guest of honor, and both funny and sentimental speeches, even though her boss, who had only been there a year, got a few of the stories, which he had asked his secretary to collect from old-timers, somewhat wrong.
There were multiple promises about getting together for lunch, but after one trip to the office, when everyone greeted her heartily but it happened to be a busy day and they were eagerly discussing new projects she didn't know about, she gave up asking.
No one has asked her, either, although several noted on Christmas cards that they planned to in the indefinite future.
All those years (she writes to her children), and she has been dropped by her friends as if she had died.
Miss Manners does not dispute that these stories are sad, although she knows that her gentle readers are finding the lower income story more sympathetic than the upper.
Nevertheless, the moral she has to deliver is the same for both, and it is a harsh one.
The reason these people do not have friends later in life is that they never did have friends. What they had, however graciously they treated them, were colleagues, and colleagues do not remain with one upon leaving a job, unless one has taken the trouble to make friends out of them.
Friends are people you invite to your house, on your own time (and at your own expense) for the pleasure of enjoying their company. They are people with whom you share deeper interests than the gossip of the workplace, and in whose lives you have an emotional stake, as they do in yours.
You do not get any professional advantage out of them, nor do you confine your bond to sharing a particular experience -- having children at the same time, for instance, or divorces -- and seek other friends when you have passed to another stage. Instead, you make yourself interested in stages you might not share, simply because they are occupying your friends.
The Druffins might have spent time preserving their friendship with the couple who introduced them at college, or pursued a new one with their neighbors, if they hadn't been so caught up in a pseudosocial life with people who indeed valued them for his position -- as, for that matter, they judged others.
Mrs. Quiggle might have developed the office acquaintanceships into friendships by bringing those people into her life, taking them home, finding interests in common outside of the workplace, sharing more than the crisis points in their lives.
Miss Manners is sorry for these lonely and embittered people, but she blames it on the illusion that mistakes business contacts for friends.
Q: I have three grandchildren, ages 14, 12 and 9, who live out of town. The problem, which upsets me terribly, is that none of us relatives ever receive thank-you notes when we send them gifts or checks.
I have complained to my daughter who, by the way, is even worse at thank yous. I have told the children repeatedly about this, even giving them stationery and stamps.
Do I just ignore it, even though I think it extremely rude, and go on sending gifts? Quite honestly, I've gone along with it before, but now I find they are old enough to know how strongly I feel.
A: Perhaps if you stop sending presents, you will hear from them. Then you may explain the following lesson (which you should have taught your daughter long ago):
The purpose of thank-you letters is to let those who give presents know that the presents are appreciated. If there is no such communication, the natural assumption is that the present was not appreciated. One does not go on sending unwanted presents.
Q: I am a recently divorced mother of teen-age boys. I was married almost 16 years. Within a few months of our divorce, my former husband remarried for the third time. I believe he had a relationship, if not a commitment, with this woman before he divorced me.
I am not able to be very civil to either one of them, because I was not employed at the time of the divorce, and only recently located part-time employment as a legal secretary. We are dependent financially on my parents when I cannot make our limited budget cover expenses.
How should I handle future graduations and other family events? Am I obligated to invite his wife -- if he is still married to her when the occasion arises -- to parties after graduations?
A: By Miss Manners' count, you were a second wife, and perhaps had some occasion to learn that financial and emotional accounts cannot be settled by adding to them violations of etiquette.
Miss Manners is sorry that your former husband appears to have been unfaithful during your marriage and that he has apparently not made adequate financial provision for you and your children.
But these matters will not be solved if you attempt to hold official family events without the legitimate wife of your children's father. All that would do would be to alert everyone concerned to your bitterness, at the expense not only of your children's enjoyment, but of your own dignity.
However, maybe your wishful thinking will turn out to be correct, and it will be only an unknown fourth wife whom you will need to invite by the time the children finish school.