DEAR ABBY: I was more than a little put off by your response to "Happy Face in South Dakota," who asked wedding guests to be sure that widowed friends and relatives are asked to dance. Your response was that people should "pay attention to the wallflowers."
My dictionary defines "wallflower" as a girl who watches at a dance because of shyness or lack of a partner. The person who wrote you was not a shy, unescorted girl. She was a woman who had lost her partner through death, to whom the most basic social graces were not extended. Your use of the word "wallflower" was not only inappropriate, it was unkind. -- OFFENDED IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR OFFENDED: Your sentiments were echoed by others, and I'd like to set the record straight. I have several dictionaries in my offices. My Webster's New World Dictionary defines a wallflower as, "a person, esp. a girl, who merely looks on at a dance, etc. as from shyness or lack of a partner." My Webster's Dictionary of the English Language (1979) defines a wallflower as "a person, esp. a girl or woman, who sits by the wall, or looks on, at a dance, sometimes from shyness but ordinarily from not having been sought as a partner (colloq)."
"Happy Face's" letter brought a lot of responses. A sample:
DEAR ABBY: Hello? Earth to "Happy Face"! Get up and take the initiative by asking them yourself. You will be unhappy and lonely only if you want to be. Take off the psychological sackcloth and ashes and start living again. Time's a-wasting! -- JOEL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR JOEL: Although many mature women have been socialized to wait to be asked, you have a point. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
DEAR ABBY: I'd like you to know that at least one 20-something male does what he can whenever possible to dance with older women who are without escorts. It feels good not to worry about rejection because I might not have enough "bling" or dress expensively. I appreciate the lack of narcissism I find in pre-boomers. Unfortunately, it's a trait that's literally dying out. -- TREVOR IN OREGON
DEAR TREVOR: That you are not only a considerate guest, but also a man who knows his way around the dance floor are valuable social assets that will stand you in good stead forever. Good for you!
DEAR ABBY: Before "Happy Face" runs to the restroom for a good cry, she should look carefully around the room. If she does, she may notice people who never had, or will have, a dance partner. She may observe a mentally handicapped young man whose day she'd make by inviting him to dance. Or an elderly man who's reluctant to ask, but who might be thrilled to be asked. There might even be an awkward teen who lacks the confidence to ask because he's self-conscious about his looks or his height, and would gladly accept an invitation from a mature lady who's willing to teach him some new (or old) steps. Just taking the initiative would take her mind off herself. -- DESMOND IN OTTAWA
DEAR DESMOND: I like the way you think.
DEAR ABBY: Our Mardi Gras Krewe held its 10th anniversary presentation, and the past nine queens -– of which I was one –- were on the stage. One of us, a recent widow, is now a double amputee in a wheelchair. When it was time for our presentation dance, my husband danced briefly with me, then went to the other queen's wheelchair and waltzed her around the stage. He left us all in tears. She later told me she had dreaded the time of the dance as she'd be all alone. It made her night. -- MARRIED TO A REMARKABLE MAN IN LOUISIANA
DEAR MARRIED: He's not only remarkable, he's a gem!