Dear Miss Manners:
I have several friends who are in open or polyamorous relationships. Because I’m happy for their happiness together, I would like to make sure that I’m not excluding or slighting any of the partners.
If I am sending them an invitation to a gathering, how on earth do I address it? “Mr. and Mrs. Jane Doe and Ms. Lily Smith”? “The Doe and Smith Family”? “John and Jane Doe and Lily Smith”?
I don’t want to draw overmuch attention to the fact that one couple is legally married and the other is “just” secondary. (This is insulting in polyamorous circles.) Also, am I correct in assuming that if the third partner has taken the legally married couple’s name as part of a long-term arrangement, the correct address is “John, Jane, and Lily Doe” or “The Doe Family”? It seems silly to use “Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. Doe,” and “Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. Doe” opens all sorts of other concerns.
Also, how do I introduce a polyamorous group socially? Do legally married partners have status over second partners, meriting first introduction, or do I simply say, “Ms. Jones, these are my friends, the Does” and leave Ms. Jones to establish how they interrelate?
I have asked friends in the poly community how they handle this, and they say, “Just call them up and invite them!” which is not, perhaps, the most helpful of answers, though it is well-meaning.
Your busy friends have a point: Etiquette does not attempt to pinpoint what goes on in a household when company is not expected.
Miss Manners hopes this does not disappoint you.
It does provide you with a simple solution, however. Adults in the same household, whatever their relationship, are addressed by their names. Thus the envelopes could be addressed (on separate lines) to “Ms. Lily Smith/Mr. and Mrs. John Doe” or Ms. Lily Smith/Ms. Jane Doe/Mr. John Doe.”
People do not generally send out invitations with the purpose of insulting their prospective guests, a fact of which those who are touchy about Ms. or Mrs. should take notice.
But judging from your friends’ suggestion, they do not seem to be as fragile as you think.
And yes, you can let Ms. Jones discover the relationship for herself. Isn’t that what parties are for?
Dear Miss Manners:
I would like to know if there is a protocol in viewing a new baby after you have been asked to the mother’s shower.
I have been invited to several baby showers by a relative for her children. When the baby is born, I usually wait a month or two before mentioning that I would love to see the baby. I would not think of dropping in on the new parents unannounced and overstaying, but I would like to bring a gift of food or something for the baby and stay for a short visit. I would stay approximately one hour.
There is such a protocol, and you have delineated it exactly: Wait until the new household adjusts, call and request paying a visit, bring a little something for the baby and don’t stay long. Miss Manners would only add that you not attempt to hold the baby without permission, and that you must make sure to confirm the parents’ belief that theirs is the loveliest baby ever born.