DEAR MISS MANNERS: We recently buried my mother-in-law. I was not involved with the funeral arrangements or the writing of her obituary or biography. However, reading the obituary and bio, it was clear to see that it was written to show how the deceased felt about certain family members.
The authors of my mother-in-law's obituary chose to list devoted in-laws and undevoted ones. I was listed as one of the undevoted in-laws. Needless to say, I was offended.
What is the proper etiquette for listing family members in an obituary and a biography? Also, how can I bring this proper etiquette to the author's attention without being as rude as the author?
GENTLE READER: Now, now. It didn't really say the lady was survived by her undevoted son-in-law, did it? It merely applied that conventional adjective unevenly, and it happened to be omitted before your name.
Not having mandated the description of survivors' emotions in the first place, etiquette has nothing to say about this -- except that public declarations of devotion have a peculiar way of suggesting opposing feelings.
Miss Manners hopes she can comfort you by pointing out that if you were devoted to your mother-in-law, it is unlikely that the lady countenanced a posthumous expression of antipathy toward you. Wills, not obituaries, are the place of choice for that.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work for a large independent day school whose constituency is wealthy, generous, but busy with their many activities. When we send out invitations to a group of parents or alumni for an event such as a luncheon, we ask for RSVPs so that we can plan for food, room size, etc.
After the deadline for RSVPs has past, it has become our modus operandi to call on the people that have not responded to make sure they received the invitation and ask if they plan on attending.
I believe this is a waste of time. I believe that if they planned on attending, they would let us know. Granted, the courtesy of replying to an invitation is a lost art, but do we really need to follow up with these people, especially given their social status?
The responses I get to my follow-up phone inquiries border on rude, as if I am pressuring them to attend. (Did I mention I work in the fund-raising office?)
GENTLE READER: It is worth mentioning. Invitations that imply that the guests should attend accompanied by their checkbooks, no matter how sanitized or glamorized the event, are not in the same category as invitations for their company alone.
Heaven forbid that Miss Manners should offer the slightest shelter to those who fail to answer invitations. It is unconscionable to keep in suspense those kindly people who only want to shower hospitality.
But while it is undeniably inconvenient for those planning charitable or business events when their invitations are ignored, they cannot expect everyone they choose to put on their mailing lists to be as diligent. If people had to respond to all the fund-raising "opportunities" being offered these days, they would have no time available to help the needy.
So Miss Manners agrees with you that calling these people is unnecessary. Alas, that is only what private hosts must do when their offers of no-strings-attached hospitality is rudely ignored.