DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my mother died of cancer, I had a lovely service for her in her church. Her "beau" of 26 years had a reception following at his country club, and graciously accepted thanks from my daughter and I, and from the guests. Now, he has come to me and asked me to pay half the cost.
When she was dying, he had asked me to return the custom-designed diamond ring he had made for her early in their courtship. He said that some of the stones had come from his first wife's ring. My mother was too lost on morphine, too weak and only able to say "yes" or "no," but she still understood what was going on.
How should I respond to these requests? The estate is small, under the taxable limit, but I expect that I, as the sole beneficiary because I am the only relative, might be considered to have "money to pay" in this case.
GENTLE READER: "Money to pay off" might be more the way to think about it. What this person is practicing is a sort of social blackmail: He is asking for things to which he is not entitled, knowing that embarrassment will cloud your thinking.
Note that this is an etiquette opinion, not a legal one. Socially, one cannot appoint a co-host retroactively, nor claim back presents whose sentimental claim to the giver has just been recalled after 26 years. So, there is no question of propriety that should make you feel pressured to do this. But you should find out whether he can make enough of a claim on the estate to make a further nuisance of himself.
Miss Manners' own inclination would be to pay for the entire wake, out of contempt for his participation in it -- in exchange for a binding agreement that he not continue to annoy you -- but to keep the ring -- to annoy him.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work with a group of women who have a question about communication with our new boss. He has a very serious stutter that occasionally makes some of us uncomfortable because we do not know how to respond. When he gets "stuck" on a letter for as long as 15 to 20 seconds, do we continue to make eye contact, look at the ground or try to finish his sentence for him? Please help with some advice on communicating with someone who stutters.
GENTLE READER: Are you telling Miss Manners that 20 seconds is too much of your valuable time to waste waiting to hear what your boss has to say? Especially since you can apparently anticipate everything he is going to say? More to the point, is that what you want to tell your boss?
Miss Manners would think that prudence would suggest, as politeness requires, that you maintain eye contact with your boss when he is addressing you. It is the content of what he says, not his stutter, that requires a response.