DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been going through a rough divorce for over a year now and have met a wonderful man who wants to get engaged. My husband is trying to hold out in settling the divorce as long as he can for his own financial reasons.
Is it unethical for me to get engaged while still going through this divorce, when he has moved on with another woman, and I am not dating someone?
GENTLE READER: You’re not? And here Miss Manners would have thought that was a necessary prelude to becoming engaged.
Perhaps you anticipate being in marital limbo for some time, during which you hope to resettle yourself. Or perhaps you are dating but are being discreet about it. Then again, maybe you just meant “now” when you typed “not.”
The likelihood is that you have agreed to marry the wonderful gentleman, so what is in question is whether you can go public with the engagement.
Discretion is not a favorite virtue of the selfie generation, even among those who have heard of the concept. But then indiscretion is hardly new. In a 1911 short story, “Autres Temps,” dear Edith Wharton refers to a character whose husband found out that she meant to divorce him when he saw her wearing a new engagement ring.
For a married lady to declare herself engaged was in bad taste then, and it is in bad taste now.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When our club hosted an equestrian event, we didn’t have enough club members to help out, so I asked two nonmember friends to give us a hand. They did. Hard work, hot day.
I wanted to get a gift card for those “volunteers,” but the club thinks this is stupid. What is the etiquette to give $10 gift cards to those nonmembers who spent two to eight hours of their Sunday to help our club with an event they didn’t even get to participate in?
GENTLE READER: Not paying them between $1.25 and $5 an hour. People work for either love or money, and if it is money, the law requires more than the laundered payment you propose.
But volunteers are in the love — or at least friendship — category of worker. You repay them by thanking them profusely and reciprocating when they need help.
Old enough to recognize an insult
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When well-meaning people refer to persons of a certain age as “young lady” or “young man” when they clearly are seniors, it is condescending and really rather insulting. It indicates that the speaker has taken notice of how old the “young” lady or man really is.
Similarly, to be called “xx years young” rather than “old” is just unbearably cutesy and cringe-worthy.
Do these folks, who apparently think they are being sweet, think that we are so simple-minded with age that we will not catch the implicit insult?
GENTLE READER: They at least assume that old people share their feeling that old age is embarrassing if not shameful.
Unfortunately, many do. But though such people may cherish the idea that they pass for younger than they actually are, Miss Manners agrees with you that they cannot be so naive as to believe that these half-jocular comments are proof of having done so. Rather, as you say, this is patronizing evidence of focusing on the actual age of people while pretending to mistake them for youths.
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 9/23