Dear Miss Manners: A young woman said that I, as a wife who "doesn't work," am "the Cadillac of the '90s."
Since I have three young children, surely she did not mean that I don't work. Perhaps she was saying I don't get paid and my husband is rich enough to keep me.Because I do not have an income, we, as a family, manage without a lot of things that many Americans think are necessities. Far from being a luxurious commodity, I am incredibly versatile and indispensable to my family.
Should I attempt to enlighten this person about how insensitive her comment was, or merely accept that she is a social clod?
Gentle Reader: Before you take insult, you might want to check what kind of car this lady has.
No, maybe you'd better not. You would also have to know how well it's running. And you're already devoting too much thought to a thought-less remark.
Miss Manners doesn't care to defend people who make impertinent assumptions about other people's lives and resources, but she guesses this was a wistful remark that had more to do with the speaker's feelings about herself than with her estimation of you. It was certainly cloddish but probably not meant to be demeaning.
Nobody knows better than Miss Manners that cloddishness is a social menace, but apparently no one else knows that the cure for it is not the cloddishness of going around enlightening people about how unpleasant one finds their "pleasantries."
If you were directly queried about your finances or criticized, you might have registered your displeasure with a freezingly polite, "How kind of you to take an interest in my personal life." Here, a cold "Thank you" would have sufficed.
Dear Miss Manners: Recently I received a "save the date" postcard from some friends - a pre-printed card listing their wedding date, with my address on a computer-generated address label. I found it to be quite tacky.
Am I correct in thinking that the practice of sending "save the date" cards should be limited to a business setting and not an occasion as personal as a wedding? If you are close enough to the couple that you would be invited to their wedding, shouldn't the notice you get from an actual invitation, sent six weeks prior to the big day, be sufficient? Is this really the best way to announce your wedding date?
Gentle Reader: When you talk about being close to the couple, Miss Manners assumes you mean geographically. People who are close only emotionally are grateful to get advance notice so they can buy airplane tickets to the wedding at reduced fares.
Not having seen the card, Miss Manners doesn't rule out the possibility that it is tacky. An awful lot of supposedly formal wedding invitations are. But the idea is a considerate one, and while a handwritten note would have been nice, a plain notification is unexceptionable.
Dear Miss Manners: When I periodically invite friends to join me for outings, dinners, etc., I frequently do not speak directly to the individuals I am inviting but leave messages on their answering machines. At what time should I assume silence means "no"?
I want to be fair and give people time to respond after coordinating with their spouse, but I don't like giving the next invitee no notice - i.e., "Do you want to go the ballet tonight?" Neither do I like letting tickets go to waste.
Is it unreasonable to expect a reply indicating either yes or no? And what does one do about "friends" who repeatedly fail to return calls?
Gentle Reader: Miss Manners has a policy of giving people the benefit of the doubt, and doesn't in the least mind blaming innocent machines in order to do this. She always assumes that an ignored invitation is the result of a mechanical malfunction.
But she has an increasingly hard time maintaining this fiction. Machines seem to be improving at the same rate that people are getting worse.
Nevertheless, the polite assumption could be that the invitation was not received, so there is no harm in inviting someone else. Should you get a last-minute acceptance, you could protest, "But I hadn't heard from you, so I went ahead and made other plans."