The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Graduating with dignity may be impossible dream

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The time for school graduation ceremonies is upon us again. Unfortunately, I’ve been witnessing that in recent years, polite applause and inward pride are steadily losing ground to ear-piercing whistles and hooting and hollering like banshees upon hearing a loved one’s name read.

Some students have taken to unashamedly making assorted gestures intended to elicit additional outbursts from the audience. Moreover, they are being fully indulged by their friends and relatives.

Another growing practice is to laden graduates with innumerable flower leis, some apparently in competition for heaviest or most money spent. Such audacious draperies undermine the school’s traditional colors, if not also making at least a few students merely wearing a cap and gown feel less appreciated.

Besides making what used to be dignified events uncomfortably loud for others around them, the excessive celebrants are drowning out the names of subsequent students filing past the podium. Effectively, they are stealing irreplaceable moments of joy from other families.

It’s all so tasteless and rude. What might you suggest be done to bring decorum back to these increasingly unbecoming spectacles?

GENTLE READER: Well, the school principals are trying, as you may have noticed. If it weren’t for all that noise, you would be able to hear them pleading for the applause to be withheld until all diplomas have been handed out.

It never works. The principals have lost whatever small authority they had left after college acceptances were received. Furthermore, they have little inclination to put a damper on a celebratory day.

Yet for some graduates, it does just that. Turning a mass celebration into a popularity contest might remind them how relieved they are to be leaving high school.

If Miss Manners were in charge of such a ceremony, she might say: “Now I realize that those of you who didn’t expect to make it through high school will be tempted to let loose and holler when you receive your diplomas, and that your families may be so overcome with relief that they will chime in. But you did make it, and your diplomas are just as good as everyone else’s. So I ask you to accept this honor with dignity, and not draw attention to how surprised you are.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our 7-year-old daughter was invited to a classmate’s home birthday party, using the typical card invitation. Unfortunately, our daughter had confiscated the invitation, and we forgot all about it.

So, when she asked about going to the party, we had no gift, we had no plans to go, and worst of all, we missed the RSVP deadline. What is the etiquette for calling in a post-deadline RSVP? Worse than just showing up unannounced?

GENTLE READER: We have here a classic case of better late than never. This is the sort of thing Miss Manners expects you to be able to figure out by putting yourself in the other person’s place. Would you rather have unexpected guests during the party, or an apology and answer beforehand?

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS



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