DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am new to the symphony scene, but love it. I have tickets to a Christmas theme coming up, so I am at a loss as to when to stand for the Handel's Messiah piece. At the beginning, during the middle?
I do not wish to be the first to stand. However, a friend of mine has noticed a few young patrons who do not seem to know the reason or why people stand for the lovely piece. They look bewildered, and a few remain sitting. Please advise.
GENTLE READER: Compared to, say hockey fans, fans of classical music have few bonding rituals. They can glare at anyone who coughs, and they can look askance at anyone who claps between the movements, but that's about it.
So it is little wonder that they look forward to Christmas, when they can stand at the proper time and bewilder others. The proper time is during the Hallelujah chorus only, not the whole piece.
As for why, good luck. The cognoscenti will be quick to point out that naturally, it is because George II did so at the first performance, in 1743. But if you ask them why he stood, they will start squabbling among themselves: It was because the music moved him so much. It was because he had gout. It was because he thought it was half time. It was because the King of Kings outranked him. It was because he thought the Messiah was finally over and he could leave.
Whatever. If you really want to bewilder those people, ask why we should stand just because George II did.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Two months ago, I received a "save the date" announcement for a birthday party for my child's friend, who will turn 3. We replied that we would happily make the date free to join them, not knowing what the specifics of the invitation would be.
A week ago, I received the official invitation, and it turned out to be for a theater show. My child, also 3 years old, is very active and cannot sit still for more than 30 minutes, at best. Even an active, gymnastics-style class challenges his attention span if it goes for more than 45 minutes. This theater performance is scheduled to last 90 minutes; there is no way my child can keep up good behavior for this long. If we go, I fear my child would be very disruptive -- not just for the party invitees, but also the other theater patrons.
Is it OK to decline the invitation after saying we would "save the date"? I'm feeling really bad about canceling and would feel bad (if not worse) for going. The only thing I can think to do is to politely decline and offer to pay his ticket cost.
GENTLE READER: If Miss Manners is to approve that relatively new social form called "save the date," people have to understand what it is and is not.
It is not an invitation. It is merely advance notice that an invitation will be sent -- in case the targeted guests want to clear their schedules or they need lots of time to think of an excuse. The host is obligated to invite you when the time comes, and may be glad to get a preliminary estimate of the guests who will attend, but cannot expect a commitment. You need not have answered the invitation at the time, and you should now express extreme regrets that you cannot attend, after all.