DEAR MISS MANNERS: A close friend of our 33-year-old son just completed testing to be a kidney donor for him. He is not a candidate for the gift.
Would it be proper, as parents, to show our gratitude for his ultimate gift offer, to send him and his wife a gift certificate for a dinner out or is a note of thanks all that would be in order? My husband says a gift "cheapens" it.
GENTLE READER: He offered your son a kidney, and you are debating whether to offer him a steak?
If you have a son in need of a kidney, you should not need Miss Manners to explain to you that this offer was priceless beyond compare. A "note," as opposed to an emotional letter pouring out your gratitude, and a restaurant gift certificate, as opposed to welcoming him to the bosom of your family, would both be ludicrously inadequate.
In regard to teaching children to offer thanks, Miss Manners has always argued that gratitude is not a natural reaction to generosity, so that the connection between the two -- and the forms for acknowledging indebtedness -- must be taught. But in your particular case, she really thought gratitude of a magnitude to match the generosity might have spontaneously overwhelmed you.
If not, you must show it anyway. As this gentlemen is not actually able to be the donor, you need not look after him in the hospital as well as you do your son, which is the way you should treat the person chosen. But in addition to displaying your thanks and offering your eternal friendship, you should be endeavoring to discover anything serious that you might do for him.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of mine just got an invitation to a fancy affair and the dress code was indicated as "fire and ice." We're not sure what he and his wife should plan to wear.
GENTLE READER: Red and white? Blue-red and transparent? Heavy-duty raincoats? Miss Manners suggests your friend call his hosts and ask. If people insist on making up cute costume codes, she declines to act as their translators.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I really need to know what the proper etiquette is for mailing a particular wedding invitation.
Here's the situation: My brother has a girlfriend and they live at separate addresses. I mailed one invitation to my brother's address but labeled it with both their full names on the envelope. According to his girlfriend, I should have mailed her a separate invitation to her address. I hope you can help me with this situation as I was married in 2000 and am still being harassed about this!
GENTLE READER: The more urgent question is whether we can help your brother. He ought not to be sending out any wedding invitations until he finds a better-tempered prospect. True, you might have checked the complainant's address before sending out your invitations, but Miss Manners assures you that this slip pales beside that person's continuing rudeness.