DEAR MISS MANNERS: A husband comes home after a few months away on business. His two small children run up to him and he hugs them. He sees his dog waiting for the sign to come and get a hug from him. Husband pats his chest and the dog comes to him, gets a hug. Then the husband sees that his wife is annoyed because he has greeted the kids and dog first.
I think the wife should be OK to wait for the hug hello, after the kids and dog, because she is the only adult present in this scenario.
Question: Is there a husband-returns-home hug hierarchy? What if his mother was also present -- should she take precedence before the wife?
GENTLE READER: A young gentleman of Miss Manners' acquaintance once told her that his friend's father (whom she knew to be a debonair specimen of a culture she will not name) had instructed the two boys in the priorities in life. "First the mother," he said, "then the son, then the car, then the dog, then the gun, then the daughter, then the mistress...." and finally he got to the wife.
Miss Manners does not believe that this is such a case. But she does believe that the wife here thinks so.
That would be petty and petulant. In the absence of other evidence, such as the above-mentioned declaration or associated behavior, it should be presumed that hugs are distributed as the recipients present themselves, and not in any hierarchal order.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My best friend's grandmother died recently. I had only met her once but wanted to be there for my friend and his mother, whom I had known for years.
I didn't think I would be able to show my respects at the funeral home, because it was during the daytime when my wife works and I am alone with the kids, and I didn't want to expose them to death at the ages of 3 and 6 years. Unexpectedly, one of my neighbors came home from work early, and, not wanting to impose any more than necessary, I asked her to watch the children while I went to the funeral home. My neighbor agreed to, but asked if I could be back as soon as I could.
I went to the funeral home in my shorts and a collared short sleeved shirt and was able to attend for about a half hour during visiting hours.
To this day, my best friend likes to point out that I showed up in shorts instead of a tie. I think that I had limited time and it was best for me to just be there, no matter my dress, for as long as I could.
Could you possibly let me know if being there was more important than being there dressed up? Even though I know in 20/20 hindsight that it really would not have taken long to change my attire.
GENTLE READER: You are trying to set Miss Manners up so that you can take the lofty position that what is in the heart is more important than what was on the hanger.
But that is not a proper choice. Clothes are a symbolic way of demonstrating on the outside what is in the inside, and somber clothes are traditionally worn in connection with bereavement as a sign of respect. Although many people violate this nowadays, your friend's reaction shows that it still carries emotional weight.
Your best chance of placating your friend is to drop the inside-outside argument and make the best of your time constraint when you apologize.