DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband's bachelor habit was to accept invitations to other people's homes, yet never invite those people to dinner at his home. Did I acquire all of his social debt when we married?
Now, most of it is good debt, to people with good character who I'm looking forward to knowing. However, there is also bad debt to a certain couple he was chummy with. It's not a matter of personality, but of character. They were open adulterers at one point, and they have always been gossips. I'm acquainted with them.
Going forward, he's agreed with me that "we" don't have to condone their kind of behavior by socializing with them. He's said that he'll do me the favor of not accepting invitations to their home anymore. In the future, he will limit his time with them to public spaces and I can decline pleasantly.
But what about the past social debt? Does it ever expire? If it doesn't, is there any way to minimize the pain with this gossipy couple? Can one dinner in my home pay off, say, five in their home from the past three years?
GENTLE READER: The situation is worse than you thought. Miss Manners is sorry to have to tell you that the very people who never held it against your husband for failing to reciprocate will soon be declaring you antisocial. "She won't let him see his friends," they'll say, as if you kept him locked in the basement.
You could, of course, ignore this, since you are not crazy about these people anyway. But it is also kind of you to recognize his debt and make a token repayment. By that, Miss Manners means that yes, you can reciprocate with a single dinner. The household is, after all, under new management, although Miss Manners trusts it is still a partnership and that you will not run up social debts you do not intend to pay.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother passed away after being in the hospital and nursing homes for over 13 months. Although her rheumatoid arthritis didn't cause her death, she suffered from it for many, many years. I had made it known to family members through my husband and in-laws that if anyone wanted to make a donation in her name that I would like it to be made to the Arthritis Foundation.
Imagine our surprise when I received a note from my sister-in-law's parents informing me that they made a donation in my mother's name to a charity they supported (it was to the school her father went to which my mother did not have link to). We have asked several friends and family members what they thought of this and have had a mixed response.
What do you think? Is it proper to make a donation to a charity you support in the name of someone else as a memorial?
GENTLE READER: No, but neither were they obliged to donate to the charity you chose. Miss Manners notes that you, as well as they, have accepted the notion -- widely promoted by charities -- that donations can serve another purposes in addition to helping the direct beneficiary: Honoring someone else and getting credit for oneself. You intended the former, but they chose the latter -- and it was their money.