DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 39-year-old wife, turning 40 in 2015. I am very happily married, moderately successful and childless.
Since my wedding 16 years ago, I have not had an occasion to “be celebrated,” and I think it’s about high time! No baby showers, no children who will graduate or get married. No grandchildren.
Frankly, a girl needs a reason to get dolled up, buy a gown and get some attention, and I, for one, don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
Can my husband and I throw a classy, formal “black and white” party for friends and family that celebrates, well, me? Gifts would be gratefully declined and donations made to a worthy cause instead, for those who feel moved to do so.
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My parents are, thankfully, still here, and my sisters’ kids are now adults but not yet married and moved on. Now seems like a great time to celebrate life!
Or am I just a total crazy person who is so self-centered she can’t see past her very own nose to realize that this is a really bad idea?
GENTLE READER: Yes, but there is an awful lot of that going around. Miss Manners has the impression that if you asked people whom they most admired and would like to honor, they would freely admit it was themselves.
The selfie party, for whatever excuse, has become commonplace. Grown-ups throw themselves annual birthday parties, brides and expectant parents demand showers, and those who, like you, missed a possible milestone that could have been such an occasion are asking for compensation.
At least you are not proposing this as an excuse to extract material tributes. And the desire to dress up and have a festive time, in this era of relentless casualness, is understandable. So if you are willing to make some minor adjustments, Miss Manners would be happy to help.
Give your formal party, buy yourself that dress, celebrate life, just don’t advertise that it is all about you. Don’t call it a birthday party – just a party, whose object is to give your guests a good time. Occasion parties have so crowded out purely-for-fun parties that your friends are bound to be delighted and grateful.
And that way, you will be celebrated for what you have done for others, instead of what you have demanded for yourself.
Tuxedos and dinner jackets
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband has always refused to wear a tuxedo at the few formal events we have attended since retirement, but I am now hoping to get him into a dinner jacket for formal nights on a cruise.
Are these two styles interchangeable? What kind of occasions call for which mode?
GENTLE READER: Good news for your husband: He can wear a dinner jacket, with Miss Manners’ approval. That is because “dinner jacket” is a fastidious term for what is commonly called a tuxedo.
Some time after 1886, when tailless (and thus relatively informal) evening clothes for men first appeared, the name this suit picked up from being introduced at the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, New York, came to be considered too commercial for gentlemanly use. On invitations, the correct term is “black tie” (as opposed to “white tie,” the now-rare full evening dress), and in conversation, it is a dinner jacket, with the pants simply assumed.
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.
© Universal Uclick 12/23