DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister and I are now old. (Never mind the "elderly" -- we're a couple of old bats.) We have many friends of our generation to whom we write once or twice a year -- holidays, invitations, etc. -- and from whom we may or may not hear. I still have school friends, we have rather distant relatives with whom we are friends, etc., and we'd like to ?nd out if they are still alive.
Most of them have never used the current mysterious method of communication, and when I have e-mailed those who do, I may not get a reply. Somehow, calling a phone number and asking whoever answers if so-and-so is dead sounds a little insensitive. We probably have addresses for them, and we could write. But what should we say?
GENTLE READER: Not "Are you still alive?" That has a decidedly depressing effect.
Miss Manners agrees that failure to use the computer is not necessarily an indication of failure to breathe. But your ability to use it enables you to begin by searching for news of your friends. Their grandchildren may have optimistically put them on a social network that they have never used. Or, less fortunately, you may ?nd obituaries.
Failing either, you write a Christmas or other informal card saying, "I've been thinking of you, and wondering how you are." At the worst, it will be easier for you to hear bad news written by a survivor than to hear the ?at statement "she died" over the telephone.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the correct way to ask a woman if she is pregnant without offending her if she is not?
GENTLE READER: "Darling, is it possible that you are about to make me a proud father?" Miss Manners warns you that if you are not in a position to put it that way, you must not ask.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I believe your view of manners is based on an appreciation for traditional civility coupled with contemporary realism. To wit, when a bride and groom are homeowners and paying almost entirely for their own wedding, it seems disingenuous (not to mention outdated) for the wedding invitation to be coming from the parents rather than from the folks actually hosting the event.
I should add that I am the mother of the bride, not the bride, and have absolutely no problem not getting top billing. If you agree with this MOB, how would you suggest wording the invitation?
GENTLE READER: Do you mean to say that just because your daughter is 45 years old and the CEO of her own company, you are not sighing and saying, "Imagine! My little girl getting married!"?
In that case, the couple should use the also-traditional heading:
Miss (or Ms.) Ginger Hermione Mulberry and Mr. Godfrey Cody Loughly request the pleasure of your company....
Happy? This is every bit as sanctioned by etiquette as the parental form.
But Miss Manners begs you not to disparage invitations in which a lady of whatever age and means feels she is nevertheless setting out from her parental family to establish a family of her own.