Q: About two years ago, I made the acquaintance of a young man through business contacts and subsequently worked with him in our related professions. Although we did not know each other well, we exchanged brief correspondence, i.e., birthday and Christmas cards, etc.
I had not seen this gentleman for close to a year when I was informed that his lovely young wife was terminally ill. After having received this information, not two weeks had passed, and I was told by another individual that she had died.
Although I would have felt awkward involving myself in the events surrounding a funeral, I did not hesitate to send a card and a letter of condolence.
Of course, you can guess the rest.
I was informed last week, by yet another individual, that the young woman is not deceased, but still, tragically, is most seriously ill with a supposedly fatal disease.
Naturally, I am both mortified and furious. Mortified that I have sent a letter of condolence when it was not appropriate, and furious at the rumormonger who could be so callous as to speculate on someone's death without firsthand knowledge.
Feeling that I am already more deeply involved with a passing acquaintance's life than I care to be, what should my next course of action be, if any? Two other friends are in the same boat in regard to this hideous rumor, and we anxiously await your reply.
A: his is awful. This is so awful that Miss Manners can hardly bear to think about it.
There are few innocently committed etiquette crimes for which the best solution is for the perpetrator to disappear from the face of the earth, but this is one of them. Isn't that what you feel like doing?
Nevertheless, Miss Manners feels it her duty to come up with a less drastic alternative. She dares not call it a solution, because whatever you do will cause further pain to this person, to whom you have already inadvertently caused pain. That cannot be avoided. Just hearing your name would cause him pain.
Your own pain might be somewhat relieved by writing him to apologize for what you must describe as a hideous mistake, which you thank God is untrue. Make no statements about the health of his wife, but simply send her your regards to indicate that you again think of her as a functional human being.
And do not use that pitiful excuse about the nasty "rumormonger." There is no such thing as a person who goes around falsely announcing deaths for the fun of it.
Q: My oldest daughter has been on her own for more than 20 years. During that time, she has had several live-in boyfriends but has never married.
She is engaged now, for the first time, to her current live-in boyfriend and plans to get married in June.
She is uncertain as to the size and type of wedding, but has asked if I would help out financially, should she decide on a large wedding. She also would like the reception at my home. I live alone, since my wife died recently.
All things considered, I have doubts as to the appropriateness of a large wedding with me as the "sponsor." Are there any ground rules for such a situation? If not, what is your view as to my proper course of action?
I no longer work, and although I can handle the financial aspects, my retirement plans did not include an outlay for this purpose.
A: By one of her rapid-fire calculations, Miss Manners has figured out that your daughter, having lived independently for 20 years, is not in her twenties. By a large wedding, she must therefore mean that she would like to invite a lot of people, rather than that she plans to have eight bridesmaids, wear a cathedral train and blush while you give her away.
Of the two remaining statistics, one is relevant and one is not. It has long been a source of amazement to Miss Manners that people believe that the form of the courtship and the lady's romantic history are factors in planning the wedding, but that the parents' financial capabilities need not be considered.
The opposite is true. No parent is ever required to overstrain his resources for a wedding, no matter how virginal the bride; and no bride, no matter how (oh, never mind), is barred from having a jolly wedding.
Miss Manners thinks it a lovely idea for any wedding to be held in the parental home, and does not limit the number of guests according to the age or premarital experience of the bride. But you must tell your daughter frankly how much or how little you wish to spend, and allow her to adjust either her plans or her own contribution accordingly.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.