Miss Manners: Mourners can pay respects in their own way

07/29/2014 7:00 AM

07/29/2014 6:46 PM

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a death announcement says, “In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to XYZ charity” benefiting research into a cure for the disease that caused the death, what do you think of someone who sends flowers despite knowing of that request?

Albeit rooted in a supportive impulse, to me sending flowers seems to presume that the giver knows better than the family itself what will be most comforting, and also seems to be more about the giver than the recipient. No doubt the family is grateful for any expression of sympathy and has bigger things on their minds anyway, but as a contributor to a group effort, I found this somewhat wrongheaded.

GENTLE READER: Now that baby showers, births, birthdays, christenings, bar and bat mitzvahs, graduations, engagements, weddings, illnesses, recoveries and divorces have all become excuses for fundraising, Miss Manners had hoped that the impulse to collect would be sated before the funeral.

While she is reasonably confident that this is the case for the deceased, it does not appear to be so for the mourners.

The purpose of a funeral is to show respect for the deceased and sympathy for the living. While Miss Manners does not agree with the practice of soliciting, even for charities, on behalf of the deceased, she will refrain from leveling criticisms at such a difficult time. In return, she expects survivors who do so to refrain from criticizing those who chose to show their respect in other ways.

There’s always time for a thank you

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Email has always struck me as somewhere between actual letter-writing and conversation, and that has led to my dilemma.

Suppose I have emailed someone asking for information. He or she replies, providing the information. Should I send a reply, thanking the recipient?

On the one hand, it seems the proper thing to do. On the other hand, people often complain about the amount of email they receive, and it seems impolite to add to it. Does the answer change if the someone is a co-worker versus a social or familial acquaintance?

GENTLE READER: Complaining about the volume of one’s email has become a national sport, but Miss Manners has noticed that using efficiency to justify rudeness long predates the digital age.

Thanking people is never impolite. Those who resent the small amount of time it takes to receive thanks should be grateful to have some relief from the barking tone email correspondence so often takes.

Hands off, buddy

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last night, my neighbors were being very loud after midnight. I confronted them and asked them to please lower the volume.

My neighbor put his hand on my elbow to apologize, and I instinctively stepped back and told him not to touch me.

He seemed shocked by this. I know I should have handled it better, but I’m unsure as to how. What is the proper way to respond to such unwanted physical contact?

GENTLE READER: By all means, recoil. You may even scowl. Then apologize, explaining that you would not have reacted so strongly were you not exhausted from lack of sleep.

Miss Manners assures you that the memory of your initial physical reaction will discourage your neighbor from future touching, while the apology will prevent him from deciding that you are now even and he may therefore continue to play his music.

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 7/30

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