DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I recently discovered a beautiful farmstead not far from where we live that is used as a venue for weddings and similar events. We would love to host a party for friends there but don’t have a particular event we are celebrating.
I would enjoy the planning and bringing people together. But what do you call a party that is not a birthday, anniversary, shower, wedding, retirement, holiday or fundraiser?
I’ve never received an invitation to a gala just for fun, and I’m interested in your suggestions for what to call such an event and how to proceed with invitations. I have no expectations for our guests except that they RSVP and come with good intentions.
GENTLE READER: Just for fun? You mean that it will not be a party in your own honor and that you are not even expecting, much less demanding, presents?
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That you have never heard of such a thing makes Miss Manners weep. Has society so thoroughly embraced the selfie event, complete with gift registry, that true social life has disappeared?
If so, thank you for reinventing it. Your guests will be puzzled at first, but they may discover how pleasant it is to attend an event where the focus is on their enjoying themselves rather than celebrating their hosts.
In the dim past, when socializing was done just for fun, the name of the event was an indication of the degree of formality. “Gala” is a term associated with fundraisers, so Miss Manners suggests you simply call yours a party.
You will still be besieged by guests asking, “What should I bring?” and, from others who have never heard of selfless hospitality, “Where are you registered?” Miss Manners hopes that you will take the opportunity to explain it to them. It would be a nice custom to revive.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a member of a national organization that requires $90 annual dues to help with many very worthy projects. A few times a year I will be sent a “gift” from the current president and a letter asking for an extra donation toward her project of the year.
In the past I always sent extra to help. This year we have experienced a lot of personal hardships, and my donation was smaller and slower being sent in.
I just received a letter informing me that I needed to pay for my “gift” as soon as possible. It is a cheaply made plastic tote bag. I think this is rude.
What should my response be? I would like to return it with a note.
GENTLE READER: By all means, do that. If you can explain to this organization that unethical business practices — sending unsolicited merchandise and then demanding payments — raise suspicions about the ethics of an organization, Miss Manners will consider that you have made a valuable contribution.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 19-year-old son just started dating a 22-year-old woman who lives with her parents. His first visit was over 24 hours. Now he has been gone over 12 hours.
I’ve tried to instill good manners into my son, but he ignores me and says her parents don’t care. How do you instill better habits, and how long is it OK to stay before you’ve outstayed your welcome?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is sorry to have to tell you that apparently your son did not outstay his welcome, whatever form that welcome took.
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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