Q: In this computer age, what is the proper way to send condolences, please? Text and email are immediate but seem impersonal. Snail mail letters are personal, but delayed.
A: At the risk of being indelicate, Miss Manners points out that speed is not a priority when expressing sympathy for a death. A handwritten letter is both more formal than an email or text and shows more effort, two things that truly are important.
Q: I am an enthusiastic board gamer. Most of the games I play are competitive, like chess. This can be as emotional as it is intellectual.
Early on, I noticed a tendency for winners to immediately extend their hands for a handshake with a lot of enthusiasm before the losers had perhaps even noticed, or processed their loss.
It seems to me to be more appropriate for the losers to extend their hands. I like the idea of being able to show good sportsmanship in the wake of a loss by being the first to congratulate the victor. If I won, I feel I should be satisfied with my victory and not force good sportsmanship onto my opponent, who may just want some time to process.
So, at the end of the match, what’s appropriate for the winner to do? The loser? Is it disrespectful for a winner not to extend a hand?
A: Victorious tennis players used to leap the net after the game to shake the loser’s hand. The thinking was that victory imposed a greater etiquette burden on the winner to, as it were, “even up the score.”
This has since been abandoned in favor of a handshake at the net. Miss Manners accepts either party’s making the first move after a victory in any sport, requiring only that both sides perform the ceremony respectfully, omitting the perhaps more heartfelt glare, curse or throwing of sporting equipment.
Q: An acquaintance invited me to a party and specifically requested that I not bring my girlfriend. Evidently, my girlfriend’s ex will be at the party, and the host does not want anyone to feel uncomfortable.
I thanked her for the invitation and politely declined, as I have a previous engagement. The next day she sent me a message stating that she doesn’t normally operate this way.
Should I respond to the message? If so, how?
A: Your would-be hostess is trying to be gracious in a difficult situation without, unfortunately, succeeding.
It was rude to specify that your girlfriend was not invited, but not knowing you well, she may have feared that an invitation to you alone might be assumed to include any girlfriends, houseguests, poker buddies, and so on.
Miss Manners wonders on what basis she decided that your girlfriend and her ex should not be in the same room, and, specifically, whether a third party — perhaps the ex — was involved.
You were perfectly right to decline politely, with or without a prior engagement. If you wish to acknowledge that the hostess had good intentions, then you may reassure her that you perfectly understand and were sorry you were unable to attend.
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.