DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I are part of a close-knit group of four couples who meet regularly to dine, attend the theater and travel. We all have luxurious tastes, and as such normally pick the finest restaurants and travel accommodations.
Just before Christmas, one of our number lost his job as a hospital administrator. In January, his wife lost her executive director position when her firm was purchased by a competitor. Since these changes occurred, they have attended only one of our outings, and they have given me the impression that they do not wish to discuss their change in economic circumstances.
To avoid embarrassment, I feel that we should continue as if nothing has happened and let them decide whether to attend or request a change in our typical choice of venue. My wife feels we should start making much more modest plans as a group, thus sending a message that we value their friendship more than a restaurant experience or an expensive trip. Another group member feels that we should have a frank discussion with this couple and solicit their feelings on the subject.
All of these potential actions have drawbacks in my opinion. What would Miss Manners recommend we do to preserve our group and not embarrass people who are going through a difficult time (or who may be independently wealthy to a degree where none of this is of concern to them and their recent lack of attendance is due to scheduling conflicts only, as claimed)?
GENTLE READER: Is your group's taste so refined that it never deigns to go to the movies? Or take a car trip nearby? Or enjoy an unpretentious meal? And do you never entertain one another at home?
Miss Manners agrees with your wife that now would be a tactful time to indulge in such modest treats. You need not do this exclusively -- just often enough to see whether this draws your friends more than your usual outings. It is better simply to enable your friends to participate in activities than to require them to lament their finances, as they are obviously not choosing to do, and make them feel responsible for your altering your entertainment.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: While sorting through some old boxes for a charity pick up, I found a stack of leftover note cards from our wedding. I'm sure you know the type: folded cards with "Laura and Marc" on the front and a blank interior for the note.
I would like to use them for thank-you notes, as they are of rather nice quality and I like them very much. Would there be anything improper about doing so? I can't think of any reason why it would be, but I have a little niggling doubt in the back of my mind that someone might object.
GENTLE READER: That someone is Miss Manners. She has more than niggling going on in the front of her mind for fear that you neglected the thank-you letters for your wedding presents for so long that you forgot you had those cards. Surely you wrote all those when the presents arrived, and are only inquiring about letters of thanks for future birthday and holiday presents.
In either case, two people cannot write a letter -- although one can mention the gratitude of the other -- so a double name should not be on the paper that is used. However, two people can give presents and two people can entertain, so the cards will be useful for congratulatory notes and informal invitations.