DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable to announce your engagement when your sister is standing in the receiving line at her husband's viewing? If not, what would have been the acceptable way to handle a situation like this?
GENTLE READER: Wait -- you (was it you?) were accepting condolences near your husband's coffin when your sister shrieked, "Guess what! I'm engaged!"
Or perhaps someone inquired about that unknown gentleman who seemed to be one of the immediate family, and your sister replied, "That is my fiance. What with my poor brother-in-law's illness, we haven't had a chance to tell people."
Something in between the two, Miss Manners is guessing. Deaths often bring together people who have not seen each other for a while and, just as many no longer dress for the occasion, those who should be mourners often fail to adjust their ordinary social manners for the occasion.
Typically, people will be calling out "Nice to see you!" to one another, chatting away to catch up, and indulging in small talk and even jokes.
This is bound to be upsetting to those who are truly mourning. Proper funereal posture is a sad, or at least composed, face with a low voice. Acquaintanceship should be acknowledged with a slight bow, and conversation should be limited to essentials, reminiscences of the deceased and concern for the survivors.
If your sister violated that during the viewing, you might have cautioned her by whispering, "Why don't you talk to people farther away?"
But that time is past. Funerals, like weddings, are known to ignite family feuds when the participants critique one another's behavior. Miss Manners begs you to let it drop.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My best friend loves sushi and has hosted several sushi parties at her home. Because of the cost, she has asked her guests to contribute money on each occasion.
These events are always "all you can eat," but each time she hosts a party, the cost goes up. The first time it was $10 a guest, but then the sushi was purchased at a more upscale restaurant, so it cost $20. At the last party, she had a professional chef come to her house and make the sushi, and the cost was $40.
At each party, I declined to take part in the sushi eating and simply ate whatever free snacks were available. As the parties progressed, there was less and less other food available, and at the last party there was one plate of chips and dip.
I have always been taught that it is rude to charge people for food at parties and that if you cannot afford a certain food, you should serve something cheaper. Some people have suggested I just not attend, but I did want to see my friends and celebrate her birthday. What are your thoughts?
GENTLE READER: Your best friend is running a sushi restaurant. She may or may not be making money from this, but she most certainly is not giving parties.
As you realize, hospitality consists of sharing, not selling. Should you want to see your friends, and to celebrate this lady's birthday, Miss Manners recommends your demonstrating this to them as befits your means.