Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Nosy friend may be rich, but her manners are poor indeed

Q: I was invited to a charity fundraising dinner by “Rich Friend 1.” This is not an event I was otherwise planning to attend because of the cost, although I make a modest financial contribution annually to that charity and provide many hours of manual labor for it as well (between 50 and 60 hours a year).

A few days later, another lady who was a paying attendee, “Rich Friend 2,” asked me how much I had donated during the event. Fortunately our conversation was interrupted and I did not have to reply. She pressed the question on me again a few days after that, and did so in front of mutual friends.

My response was a smile and “I can’t imagine why that’s important to you, but in any case I was very pleased with how much was raised.” She then said Rich Friend 1 would like to know also. I then said, “Hmmm, she hasn’t asked me.” Rich Friend 2 then told me that a guest at a charity dinner is expected to donate money, which makes me think she already knew that I had not donated on that occasion.

I smiled again and said that I had not been her guest and truly feel it is my business (read: not your business) how much I donate to charity.

Is Rich Friend 2 correct that an invited non-paying guest to a charity event is expected to donate money at the event? Am I off base for finding Rich Friend 2’s question rude and not one that required me to divulge the information requested? If Rich Friend 1 asks me the same question, what would be an appropriate response?

A: Your friends are not very charitable, are they? Not to mention being inhospitable and nosy.

Although guests may be invited to such events in the hope that they will become interested in the charity, there is no charge for being a guest. And you are already a donor, not just of money, but more significantly, of your time.

Miss Manners’ advice, then, is to continue deflecting rude interrogations, and perhaps to run with a better crowd.

Q: What would Miss Manners advise people do if a tornado warning were to be announced during a wedding/party/etc.?

A: Seek shelter. Etiquette does not require people to stand on ceremony when they are likely to be blown away.

Q: I was always taught that a formal invitation should be mailed. Am I being too picky?

A: Not picky enough, actually. If you are going to cite tradition without allowing for practicality, then you need to know the full history.

When postal services came into widespread use, the picky people of the time argued that it was wrong, if not vulgar, to use it for delivering formal invitations. They were taught that the only proper delivery method was hand delivery by a footman who could return with the response.

Presumably, they tried to pass on this teaching, but it did not take, especially not among those who lacked their own footmen. Miss Manners does not advise you to enter this argument.

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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