Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vultures swarm after dad’s death

Updated: September 29, 2010, 8:55 AM

By Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: My father died after a short illness. Almost immediately after the funeral, people started saying, basically, “Gee, I’m sorry your Dad died. By the way, he promised me that I could have (item or property) someday. Can I have it now?”

My mother, siblings and I are frankly flabbergasted that people would do this in the midst of our mourning. (Dad died less than a month ago.)We are also shocked at the sheer number of people who are doing this. One person even tried to bully my mother into giving him something he said he was promised well over a decade ago!

Until now, we have been fixing people with an icy look and a message that nothing is being given away unless my mother decides to do so (delivered in a flat tone.) You would not believe the number of people who come back the next day asking if Mom has had a chance to make her decision yet!

We would like the begging to stop, but we don’t want to escalate the rudeness since many of the people asking for things are her neighbors. The situation is just too raw for us to think about giving away my father’s things.

Can you help us with something to say that will convey the message without confrontation, please?We think that some of these people really don’t realize what they are doing and we don’t want them to feel like idiots, but this situation must stop, if only for my mother’s sake.

Gentle Reader: Why are you flattering these people by characterizing them as idiots who do not realize what they are doing?

It seems to Miss Manners that they know exactly what they are doing: taking advantage of a bereaved family by attempting to cozen them with the smarmy tactic of invoking the wishes of the deceased.

Perhaps your father did offer to give things away, although Miss Manners is suspicious of these claims. His illness was short, and it seems unlikely that he spent it making such promises. If he did, surely you would have known about it.

In addition to the disposition of property he made in his will, you will probably honor any wishes he may have expressed to the family informally. But if you want to do anything beyond that, you—the family—are the best ones to guess what would have pleased him.

However, even Miss Manners can tell you what would go against his wishes. He would not have wished to reward people who harassed his family.

What you should say to them is, “We appreciate your kind wishes. We have his will, and we know his most recent intentions, so if there is anything coming to you, you will hear from us or from his lawyer. Thank you for stopping by.”

The opening and closing sentences here are designed to make these people realize their rudeness. But in a polite way, of course.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Miss Manners: No gift is required

Miss Manners: No gift is required

Judith Martin

May 06, 2010

Dear Miss Manners: I grew up with the rule that a wedding invitation requires a gift, even if the invitee does not attend the wedding. But friends have been telling me that rule is obsolete.

I’ve been invited to the wedding of a first cousin twice removed, whom I haven’t seen since she was 5. Her parents and I are in touch only through Christmas cards. I have no idea why I was invited and have no intention of going to the wedding, which will not be in my town. It would involve an expensive overnight hotel stay. Must I send a gift?

Gentle Reader: Those among whom you grew up were generous but misinformed.

Getting married does not grant people license to distribute bills to those who are minding their business. A wedding invitation is merely an offer of hospitality. As such, it must be answered, one way or the other, and it should also prompt a letter wishing the couple happiness. There is nothing wrong with also sending a present, but that is certainly not required.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Miss Manners: Ungrateful bride begs for gifts

Miss Manners: Ungrateful bride begs for gifts

By Judith Martin

Updated: April 22, 2010

Dear Miss Manners: A friend from work had a “destination” wedding in Las Vegas. Because of the cost of traveling to another state, hotel stay and the fact that it was the week before Christmas, I declined on my RSVP well in advance.

My friend was upset that I was unable to attend her out-of-state affair. However, I made the bride’s veil, and she said she loved it. I received a note of thanks for the veil from my friend. She stated in the thank you note that she “appreciated her true friends that made the commitment to come to the wedding” and that “we are still accepting monetary gifts for our honeymoon cruise later this summer.”

Beyond the initial thank you, I feel that both statements were inappropriate. Her wedding veil was costly to create, and since it was my gift to her, I do not feel inclined to give a cash gift for their honeymoon. Isn’t the honeymoon their responsibility?

Am I wrong? Should I rethink giving her money for her cruise?

Gentle Reader: It depends. Don’t you want to save up to buy them a house? And to furnish it? And to contribute to their future children’s education? Because that is what you would be in for if you decided to pay bills for a pair of greedy ingrates.

Miss Manners cannot think of a more generous and charming present than the one you lovingly made. But evidently, the bride can.