As one who belongs to a number of museums and other cultural institutions, and who has done volunteer work, I am much concerned about their survival in our city. However, I am equally concerned over the manners of some of the fund-raisers.
Of late, we have received several calls and have had to allocate our priorities; in the case of the large, well-known and hitherto well-endowed entities, we have felt that the annual membership subscription is sufficient, and prefer to make special donations to equally worthy but often overlooked grass-roots organizations.
I have had some difficulty conveying this to some of the more persistent callers. One said that she was sure "the federal government will take care of them" (not so if a religious organization or the local community is their sponsor). How can one respond with a gracious "no" to requests that one presently cannot grant?
Miss Manners is also appalled by rude and aggressive fund-raising techniques, but concerned that teaching people to deflect them will result in fewer charitable contributions. Please, let us separate the rudeness of the caller from the worthiness of the organization.
In any case, you need not discuss your philanthropy with anyone. Telling why you are not giving money to a particular organization, or what you plan to support instead, constitutes a discussion and therefore invites argument.
The way to avoid one, when a refusal is questioned, is to say directly, "I'm sorry -- I give what I can, but I never talk about my charitable contributions."
Next month my adopted son will be 13. Since we are not Jewish, I would like to give him a non-bar-mitzvah party and invite friends. We have been to many bar mitzvahs involving his friends, and plan to invite all of them.
I am concerned about how to send the invitation. What should it say? I understand that in bar mitzvahs, money and presents are given. I would like him to have this too. But mostly what I want is a coming-of-age party for him.
You may well be concerned. A bar mitzvah is a solemn religious occasion (although accompanied by festive rejoicing), and any attempt to adapt it for secular use would be highly offensive. It would be like a mother's wanting to give her little daughter the opportunity to dress up, and therefore staging a mock communion.
What you are talking about is a birthday party. Give your son as lavish a birthday party as you wish, and by all means invite those whose bar mitzvahs he has attended.
If one accepts a dinner invitation from a person whom one heartily dislikes but does not wish to offend, how soon after the completion of the meal can one tactfully leave?
Half an hour, which is to say neither sooner nor later than from a dinner given by a person whom one is crazy about but wouldn't mind offending.
Etiquette does not recognize a distinction based on the emotions one has for or against one's host. Once you accept a person's hospitality, you incur the obligations of a guest. Perhaps this is why people usually do not run around having dinner at the homes of those they cannot abide.
My husband and I have taught our children to address their elders as "Mr." or "Mrs." The children have no problem with this; it is our friends who are addressed in this manner who have difficulty.
The most common reaction is "Oh, no, Mrs. Jones is my mother-in-law -- my name is Nancy." Mrs. Smith's reaction is "My kids call you Mary and Joe -- yours can call us Sue and Fred."
Who has the right of way in this situation? Do we, as parents, have the right to override our friends' wishes and have our children address them in what we feel is a more respectful manner?
Or do our friends, by virtue of the names being theirs, have the right to insist that our children call them by their first names? This has become a touchy situation.
As irritated as Miss Manners is by people who sabotage parental manners-lessons in this fashion, she must acknowledge that people do have a right to decide how they wish to be addressed.
Please do not let that discourage you from bringing up your children to know what is right. Just add to the lesson that others must be indulged in their foolish attempts to use the styles of the young in the hope of passing for youths themselves.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.
1987, United Feature Syndicate, In