DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to react when someone says their loved one is being deployed?
Often times people feel honored and excited to serve their country. However, most have some level of sadness and trepidation. I don’t want to come off as thinking it is a death sentence, but I want to convey the proper sympathy.
GENTLE READER: If you must guess at people’s unexpressed feelings — always a highly risky endeavor — why assume the negative? Miss Manners assures you that the relatives are well aware of the danger and do not need to you remind them.
You could just as easily say, “You must be very proud,” and offer sympathy only if it seems to be requested.
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More cards needed
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister had a heart attack. We don’t live in the same state (yet we speak daily). I sent her a food basket that came with a card, yet she still thinks I should have sent her a separate get-well card. What are your thoughts on this?
GENTLE READER: That your sister is not well, and this is no time to get into a squabble over an unreasonable but minor demand. Miss Manners advises pelting her with affectionate cards.
How about a small wedding?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiancee and I have decided it makes more financial sense to elope on a nice beach somewhere than to spend money we don’t have (nor do our parents) on a big wedding.
However, I come from a close-knit Southern town, and I know some friends and neighbors will be horribly offended that they were not invited. I know a couple who have held grudges for years over this sort of thing.
What is the kindest way to explain to them that I care about them very much but don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a fancy wedding?
GENTLE READER: Let’s first make sure that they care very much about you. Is it that an emotional attachment makes them long to be with you at this important milestone in your life, and not that weddings are the way they enjoy luxurious entertainment at little expense? That bit about grudges is a bad sign.
However, if the affection is mutual and finances are your only problem, Miss Manners can help. Eloping is a way of escaping the participation of others. But you express regret at not being able to afford including them. All you have to do is to detach the concept of “wedding” from “lavish,” “expensive” and “fancy.”
An informal wedding can be charming, even a relief from the overblown, pretentious extravaganzas so common today. You can send first-person, handwritten notes to those people you care about, inviting them to your beach wedding. If it is not scheduled at a usual mealtime, you can serve them punch or beer or lemonade, and a homemade cake.
Your true well-wishers will have the pleasure of witnessing and celebrating your marriage. Anyone who is disappointed not to be treated to champagne, a four-course dinner and an evening of dancing (not to mention the auxiliary events that so often turn a wedding into a weekend of activities) may decline. And any grudges on that account need not bother you, because they will not be held by friends.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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