Miss Manners: Neighborhood fellowship is established by reaching out
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We moved to a new neighborhood in 2006. The neighbors have had neighborhood parties since we have moved here. Unfortunately, each time they have invited us, we have had other plans and have had to decline.
Last night, there was a neighborhood party given by our neighbors next door. I was hurt that they had not invited us. We were available last night. We would like to be included in these parties and would enjoy the fellowship with our neighbors.
Should I talk to my neighbors about this? What would be the proper next step?
GENTLE READER: Just a minute, please. You have been declining these people’s invitations since 2006, and now you are sulking because they finally stopped issuing them? And you think it would help if you sat down with them, and explained all the more important things you’ve had to do for the last six years?
Miss Manners thinks not. You do not establish fellowship by asking others to entertain you; you do it by asking to entertain them. You should throw a party for all the neighbors, and chatter about how you wished you had done this years ago, but at least now have finally organized your lives.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended two family weddings recently wherein the bride, groom, their parents and each of their many attendants, in hostage-like fashion, “entertained” the guests, during the receptions, with hours of prepared speeches.
I am not talking short toasts here. I mean real speeches, read from reams of yellow legal paper, about how each had met the bride and groom, how the bride and groom had met, what the bride and groom meant to each speaker, what the speaker meant to the bride and groom, what everyone in the bridal party thought about everyone else in the bridal party, and on and on.
At several points I thought I was observing a therapy session. At one wedding, there was no easy means of temporary escape so my husband and I had to endure. At the other, temporary escape was easy and we embraced it, as did a number of other guests, mostly family members.
Please comment on what I hope is not a disturbing trend: seminars and/or therapy sessions posing as wedding receptions.
GENTLE READER: It is more than a trend, almost a universal standard now, for wedding festivities — and even the ceremonies themselves — to be treated as biographical extravaganzas. The It’s About Who We Are theme has crowded out the civic and religious meaning of the occasion.
Yet for all the show business mentality that goes into the planning, there is a frequent failure to consider what any competent producer knows is the most important element: interesting the audience. (Wedding guests do not constitute an audience, but that is what their hosts keep calling them.)
Relatives and friends are presumed to be charmed to hear loving words about the bride and bridegroom. And up to a point, they usually are. Even purely professional associates and the casual dates of other guests may be able to enjoy a few minutes of emotional toasts.
Miss Manners is sorry to hear that people are going so much beyond that point. Parties are supposed to be what we now call interactive, allowing the guests to reunite with those they know, meet new people, converse and perhaps dance. The lengthy expressions of love that members of the family and attendants harbor, like that between the bride and bridegroom alone, should be enjoyed privately.
Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.
2012, by Judith Martin
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