DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a couple marries, each gives the other a ring to wear on the left-hand ring finger signifying to all that each is a married person. I lost my beautiful wife just one year ago yesterday. We would have had our 55th wedding anniversary in June of this year.
I am still wearing the ring she gave me on my left-hand ring finger. Because I'm now no longer married, but widowed, would it be proper to move the ring to the right-hand ring finger, wear it around my neck on a chain, or just -- what?
To clarify, I have no intention of ever marrying again, but I would like to find a companion with similar tastes for entertainment. I do not want to show any disrespect to my former wife, as I loved her so much.
GENTLE READER: Yes, yes, please don't upset yourself. This is one of the extremely rare cases in which etiquette forgoes its usual dictatorial ways and advises you to go by your own feelings. There is no rule requiring or forbidding the widowed to remove their wedding rings.
Lest you think Miss Manners is deserting you, she hastens to assure you that she does have something to contribute to the subject. Etiquette not only makes rules, but it presides over the symbolism system, so it is her job to explain the symbolic ramifications of whichever choice you make.
Your wedding ring symbolizes your marriage, which has sadly ended in your wife's death, so it would not be disrespectful to remove it. It also symbolizes your love for her, and that is why the widowed sometimes choose to keep wearing their rings.
However, others, as well as yourself, will be reading that symbolism. If you are seeking simple friendship, the rings would serve as notice that you mean nothing more and do not intend to remarry. If you are seeking a romantic attachment, it would be only polite to keep the ring from public view to avoid its reminding another lady (and everyone you both know) that she is of secondary emotional importance to you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My dilemma started sometime ago. I knew this guy in high school and was quite smitten with him. My feelings for him were very strong at the time, but we lost touch. His 10-year high school reunion was last year, so I started to look him up. I discovered that he died in 1992. Is it appropriate to contact his family to offer my condolences, or is it too late? I would really like to pay my last respects and let them know how fond of their son I was.
GENTLE READER: It would be an extremely kind thing to do. Forget whatever you have heard about closure in grief. Miss Manners assures you that these people still remember that their son is dead, they still think of him all the time, they still miss him and they would be highly gratified to know that someone else does, too.