DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have eight male law partners. At least once a week some or all of us go out for lunch or a drink after work. We have at least two scheduled partner retreats a year during which we go out of town to meet and work on business plans. This has never been a problem in the past even though I am not married and seven of the eight others are.
Now we have welcomed a new partner into our group, and his wife, without coming right out and saying so, has made it very clear that she resents my presence at the otherwise "all male" outings. Should I try to smooth over this situation or leave it to the husband and wife to sort it out on their own?
GENTLE READER: That the wife is insulting your new partner by insinuating that he cannot be trusted not to go after you is not your business. That she is insulting you by insinuating that you might go after him is.
Miss Manners suggests smoking this out by remarking regretfully to him that his wife does not seem to like you, and that you hope you did not inadvertently offend her. If he is as smart as you must have thought when taking him in as a partner, he will deny this and go home and tell her to behave herself. Should he be so foolish as to admit her jealousy, he needs an orientation talk about the cordial professionalism that is expected of everyone at the firm and, by extension, anyone a partner may bring to a firm event. You may want to ask one of the most senior partners to deliver this.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have never expected bereaved persons to reply to sympathy or condolence cards, thinking that this would be an unnecessary social burden at a sad time. Now, however, having recently become bereaved myself, and the recipient of many cards and flowers, I find myself wanting to thank all these nice people. I'm sure it's never wrong to say thank you, but what is the general expectation?
GENTLE READER: That you write letters thanking each person who has taken the trouble to write to you. Printed cards with only a signature are not in that category, but, as you surmise, it is not wrong to give thanks even for that perfunctory gesture.
Miss Manners commends you for arriving at this conclusion anyway, and letting it override what you describe as the burden of acknowledging condolences. She considers that a dangerous excuse. Ignoring your well wishers leads to loneliness later -- not because they are annoyed, but because they are left with the feeling that you want to be left alone. Besides, it is a duty one owes to the deceased to acknowledge those who cared about him and to offer them the comfort of confirming that their feelings were reciprocated and to recognize that they, too, feel a loss.