Q. My husband is a senior partner in his law firm. In the past year I have been invited to eight baby showers for summer clerks, associates and partners' wives -- some of whom have now left.
I thought showers were for friends and relatives (and firstborns), not strangers or mere social acquaintances. I understand that if I don't attend, the party-givers might feel that they are not "accepted" and that their husbands have no clout, but after all, they are not employees of the firm.
Initially, these showers were coed, but my husband announced at a meeting that he would not attend, nor would he allow these functions to be funded by his office.
I cannot have children, but I am delighted when my friends do, and I find their parties and christenings a pleasure, not a chore.
Thus far, I have avoided the events for one reason or another, and have dutifully sent a gift. But I am tired of the irritation and the gratuitous obligation. Frankly I do not wish to spend my Sunday afternoons with people whose only connection to me is through our husbands.
Is there a polite way to handle this once and for all?
A. Miss Manners was about to cheer your husband for taking a stand against such phony socializing, when she realized that he had saved himself at your expense. Tell him from her that he must finish the job of distinguishing pseudo-social events from proper activities of the firm.
These are his professional associations, not yours. He should include you in his announcement of nonparticipation, and if you still receive invitations, he should be the one to decline, saying, "My wife and I wish you well" to soften it.
Sending presents only continues the mistake. If the firm wants to do something nice for new parents, a bit of time off would undoubtedly be more appreciated.
Q. Having achieved a great degree of career success, I am now attempting to restore my family name to its original, prominent status. To that end, I have embarked on an expensive family-home renovation plan, accepted invitations to join elite social groups, and increased my visibility.
What advice would you offer to a budding socialite who's on a limited budget? Is it improper to entertain guests in a home that is not completely renovated? How do I become more socially active without begging for recognition?
Is it selfish to distance myself from immediate family members whose past and present indiscretions could hurt my future?
A. Enhancing the family name by snubbing the family is a new one to Miss Manners.
Morality aside, this is a bad idea. A family member is bound to have a reversal of fortune, and you will be scrambling to point out that person's connection with you.
Social climbing carries its own punishment.
At best, you will end up with a social circle that deserts you in case of need, because you will have chosen your friends for their interest in associating with the successful during the time that they are lucky.
Then, too, even opportunists don't like opportunists. Anyone suspecting that you choose all your friends for their usefulness is likely to shy away from you on the grounds you furnish -- that the usefulness is more on your side than theirs.
Miss Manners suggests that you mix your old circles with those whose acquaintance you covet. A partially unfurnished house is not an offense to guests, who may even enjoy having the extra room to mix or sprawl, but a guest list bare of real friends looks pitiful. Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.