DEAR ABBY: My wife and I recently attended the funeral of a friend's father. During the sermon I noticed tears in our friend's eyes and offered her my handkerchief. On the way home, this sparked a conversation about the obligation of a person who receives a handkerchief. Should it be returned after the event, or should it first be laundered? Or is it considered a gift, not to be returned at all?
Later that evening at a movie, I noticed a woman hand someone her handkerchief saying, "It's monogrammed. It was my mother's." No mention was made of a request that it be returned. I'm sure most people wouldn't mind letting go of a standard handkerchief, but one with sentimental value would be different, wouldn't it? What do you suggest? -- REAL MEN CARRY HANDKERCHIEFS
DEAR REAL MAN: You were chivalrous to offer your handkerchief to the grieving daughter. Had it merely been used to dab away a tear, it could have been returned to you at the end of the service. If, however, there was makeup on it -- or the dab was followed by a swipe of her nose -- the woman should have held onto it, laundered it and returned it to you in the presumably pristine condition it was in when you gave it to her.
As to the monogrammed (heirloom) hanky you saw lent in the theater, when the woman explained its significance to her friend, that was the tip-off that she expected it to be returned.