Dear Miss Manners:
A 30-something friend's mother died in a traffic accident, at which his father was injured but recovered. Theirs had been a long and happy marriage.
On the one-year anniversary of her death, the family and friends held a celebratory memorial event, with dancing and speeches (the mother was a teacher of Scottish country dance). During the evening, my friend's father introduced him to his new girlfriend, a contemporary he met at dance class.
Was it appropriate for the girlfriend to come to the event as the father's "date"? (I can certainly see her attending if she was a friend or acquaintance of the deceased, but I have some difficulty finding it appropriate that she did so in the capacity of the "new woman.") And was it appropriate for the father to introduce her as the new woman in his life to his son at this event?
My friend found the whole thing rather traumatic. He is not opposed to his father finding someone new and likes the lady perfectly well, but would have preferred to meet her for the first time at an event not dedicated to the memory of his mother.
Where does your friend's father get his etiquette tips? From Hamlet's mother?
You may recall that when Hamlet told his friend about her marriage to his uncle soon after his father's death, he said she must have been guided by "Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral bak'd meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables."
Combining mourning rites with irrelevant events is a terrible idea that a number of people seem to harbor. Every Christmas Miss Manners has to tell people that no, they should not put death announcements into their Christmas cards. But it is particularly vulgar when the new element has to do with romantic consolation for the bereaved, no matter how much is saved on the refreshments.
Dear Miss Manners:
I am fastidious in responding promptly to the sender of an invitation that contains an RSVP request, with one exception. From time to time I receive such an invitation from an institution or politician to whom I have given money in the past. The card to be returned usually gives me the choice of selecting from two options.
One option is to say I can attend and that my check is enclosed. The other option allows me to say that I cannot attend, but that I am enclosing a check anyway.
The option of both not attending and not paying is not offered. I feel as if I am entitled to ignore any RSVP for an event that requires me to pay. Am I correct?
Nobody is as much of a stickler about answering invitations as Miss Manners, but yes, you are correct. No useful work would get done in the world if we all had to respond to mail solicitations for money with charming little notes explaining how terribly sorry we are not to have the honor of bankrolling them.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin