DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have two adult children who have been diagnosed with a crippling disease -- one of whom has a daily struggle with its manifestations. Recently, on the death of an acquaintance, when the death notice stated that, in lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to a certain charity, I sent a check in the deceased's memory to the national center for my children's disease instead.
A "friend" told me that this is very selfish and disrespectful on my part and that I should honor the deceased's request for a donation to his specific fund.
Was I out of line to do it the way I did? The deceased knew of my children's plight (and would it matter if she didn't?) but I am now feeling guilty for doing something I thought was a good deed. If one chooses to make a donation, is it mandatory to send it to the specified fund, or is that to be considered a suggestion?
GENTLE READER: Only Miss Manners would dare to reprimand a mother with two seriously ill children -- and that "friend" with the quotation marks. But the friend was wrong -- not on the issue, but to offer criticism without being asked.
Since you did ask Miss Manners, she has to tell you that your own tragedies do not excuse you from expressing proper sympathy for other peoples'.
Yes, it is a good deed to donate money to the center for your children's disease, but a good deed that apparently has nothing to do with the deceased. You need not have made a contribution to the designated charity, but you did need to put aside your own troubles long enough to console the bereaved for theirs. Putting your late acquaintance's name on something you wanted to do for your own reasons is more likely to jar them into realizing that you were not thinking of the deceased and his family, but only of yourself and yours.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: About three years ago, my wife and I were having dinner in a rather posh dining room of a motor hotel during the senior prom season, and a large group of beautifully dressed, well-behaved young men in tuxedos and young women in formal gowns filed in to have dinner at a long table. The men, after seating the women, all suddenly shed their jackets in unison and hung them on the backs of their chairs before seating themselves.
This didn't bother us at all, but it did arouse our curiosity as to whether this has become a standard practice. Being in our 70s, we are not up on the current rules of dress etiquette, but it did seem strange. The overall effect was to make all the men look like the waiters, which was a bit amusing.
GENTLE READER: The waiters were serving in their shirt-sleeves?
Miss Manners is shocked. They should know better.
The young men, however, probably had the misfortune of growing up among people whose idea of hospitality is to urge one another to take off their jackets. Thus they thought of these as totem items, to be carried for the sake of correctness but never used, rather like canes with full evening dress.