DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the past couple of years, I have been invited to three separate fundraisers for women who were going through divorces. The purpose was to raise money to pay court costs during divorce hearings and custody hearings. Only one of these women did I know personally; the others were friends of friends.
I may be wrong, but I feel it is rude to solicit your friends for money to pay for your divorce, and even more rude to have them solicit their friends who are strangers to you.
These fundraisers were not anything someone would want to participate in unless they were doing someone a favor. (For example, one was a silent auction for shoddily made crafts that another friend had created; they were poorly done and nothing you’d want in your home.)
Am I correct in my belief that divorce costs are a private affair and should not be shared among friends, or am I just being stingy?
GENTLE READER: It hardly seems stingy to not want to pay for strangers’ divorces. Even the people who were married to them resent doing that.
But Miss Manners has noticed that what you describe is part of a much larger problem. Many people have come to believe that all milestones in their lives — including, but not limited to, birthdays, graduations, changing residences, engagements, weddings, births, divorces and funerals — entitle them to demand sponsorship from others. Relatives, friends, friends’ friends, professional acquaintances and the world at large may be targeted.
It takes various forms: Bridal couples spreading the vulgar urban legend that guests must spend on them the amount of money that it costs to entertain them; self-sufficient adults pressuring their pensioned parents to pay for multiple weddings; birthday celebrants summoning people for a restaurant celebration for which they are expected to pay; expectant mothers giving their own showers or having their relatives do so; even the bereaved asking for donations for funeral costs or orphans’ education.
This does not usually represent warm communities reaching out to help those in need. Rather, it is apt to be solvent people who want more, reaching out on their own behalf. And the donors can by no means count on their generosity being reciprocated.
Furthermore, the demands keep rising. There is the invention of the engagement gift; the elevation of the shower present from amusing trivia to become equivalent to a wedding present; the graduation party that is no longer just for the graduate’s friends but for the parents’ circle; the infant birthday parties for adults; the workplace collection; and above all, the gift registry.
So Miss Manners is not surprised to hear about the divorce fundraiser. What surprises her is the willingness of people to be shamed into diverting their philanthropic resources from the needy to the greedy. She trusts that you simply declined the honor politely.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter-in-law uses her name when making hotel reservations for the entire family. Should not she have used her husband’s name? She also has her voice on the answering machine. Should not the husband be the one with a message on the answering machine?
GENTLE READER: Disliking your daughter-in-law does not entitle you to declare her a non-person. Besides, Miss Manners feels obliged to tell you, it won’t work.