DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family has received a lovely invitation to a Bobby McFerrin concert and reception afterward. We are among several families to be invited. Our (childless) hostess is very generous.
But included with the invitation are two "contracts" that my two children, ages 11 and 15, must sign as a promise to be on their best behavior. She enclosed an SASE, too.
My children are accustomed to attending concerts and plays and, even when bored, are patient and never rude. We'd love to accept the invitation, but I'm a little put off by the preconditions. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: That your children ought to consult their lawyers before signing. Mr. McFerrin is much given to asking for audience participation, and they may be faced with the choice between disobeying his instructions and violating the contract.
There is also, of course, that small matter of age discrimination. Although numerous prodigies have demonstrated that classical music is accessible to the very young, society persists in discouraging children from listening to it by telling them in not-too-subtle ways that they do not belong in concert halls.
Rude children have been known to disturb other concert-goers, but not because a gang of them shows up on their own. For every mannerless child, there is at least one mannerless accompanying adult. It is clearly discriminatory to use age profiling against any children present when they are outnumbered by rude adults.
However, Miss Manners does not believe that problem should be turned over to lawyers, even by children with generous allowances. Rather than signing these prejudicial contracts, your children should demonstrate their good manners by putting into the envelope a note thanking their hostess for inviting them and assuring her that they are experienced and enthusiastic concert-goers.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When you say guests should be invited to the wedding dinner, not just to come for drinks after the dinner, are you aware of the cost per plate? Unless one has a position where he or she makes big bucks, it is impossible to invite everyone to the dinner.
My daughter is getting married and has invited 300 people for dinner: uncles, aunts, first cousins, grandparents on both sides, close friends of the bride and groom, close friends of the parents, friends of the grandparents and close neighbors. We have a large family.
My daughter wants to include 30 co-workers (and spouses) for the church ceremony and reception, but not the dinner. When I receive such an invitation, I am not offended. I enjoy having a social evening where there is a free beer and free dancing, and where I can socialize with other people. I am glad to bring a gift. Get real, Miss Manners!
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is happy to take your advice and shine the harsh light of reality on what you have said.
We are in agreement that one should not overspend on a wedding. The disagreement is in how to spend a reasonable amount that one can afford.
Your priority is food; Miss Manners' is people. You want to spend it on dinner for a limited number; she would spend it, or perhaps even less, on a festive wedding breakfast or afternoon reception and invite everyone in that large family and circle of friends.