DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have finally turned 30, and I couldn't be more pleased. It enables me to assume a bit of dignity, and I find that I receive more respect at work (I'm a nurse) because there are a few lines around my eyes. And yet, among the celebrations is a shadow. My friends are all turning 30 as well, and dreading it.
I want to be there for my friends when they're feeling depressed, but if I have to attend another party where the hostess is drunk and depressed and spends half the night in the bathroom weeping over lost youth, I will have to join a holy sisterhood.
I have tried to lead by example, and I have tried to liven things up, but it is impossible if the hostess refuses to come out of her room because she doesn't look like a 15-year-old fashion model. These are accomplished women with wonderful families and/or careers. I don't mind sitting around watching a movie because someone's feeling blue, but if there's going to be a party, I expect festivity.
Is there a way to inquire whether my hostess intends to spend the night celebrating her life, or wallowing in self-pity? Is it rude or just unfeeling to expect that birthday parties will continue to be as festive as they were at 21? (Maybe a touch more refined...)
GENTLE READER: You are to be congratulated on escaping the notion that since one cannot remain forever young, one can at least remain forever immature. As you have noticed, this is a widespread belief.
You also need to escape these so-called parties. When the hostess won't come out of her room, it is time either to call the rescue squad or to go home.
Miss Manners suggests responding to birthday invitations by exclaiming "How wonderful! Congratulations! Isn't it great to be grown up?" Then, depending on the answer, you can accept the party invitation or decline regretfully while offering to take your friend to a celebratory (and cheerleading) lunch. If she ever comes out of her room, that is.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my father passed away recently, we (his family) arranged for his burial, a dignified marker, a small but tasteful obit, and a small reception to be held later for a few friends and family. (As a point of interest, Dad left behind less wealth than he brought into the world, and yes, there are costs involved for food, travel, lodging, etc., that have been spent willingly to give him a proper sendoff.)
Yet Dad was quite a colorful public personality well loved by many -- even though when it came to his family, he was mostly missing in action, appearing mostly, if at all, during holidays. Some of his acquaintances continue to offer opinions on the obit, declaring it beneath Dad's stature (and yet everyone seems to have seen it) or the lack of a proper bash at a local bar in Dad's honor.
Is there an appropriate response for comments that may be well meant, but ill-conceived and in fact hurtful?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners has a hard time with the possibility that well-meaning people go around haranguing bereaved families. Do they offer such criticisms because they think this is useful? Or kind?
Your response to such impertinence should be, "The family did what we believe is right. But of course you are welcome to write about him or to organize a memorial."