April 13, 2024
If I say no, it makes her look bad. But if I say yes ...

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For years, I had the pleasure of looking after an elderly neighbor, until she passed. She had no close relatives, and people were generally uninterested in her. It was very sad.

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I am now working with her lawyer to settle her sizable estate. Everything is held in a trust, shielded from prying eyes. Neighbors see me at her home and know I am facilitating the dispersion of contents and sale of the house. I am being asked by neighbors if I was left anything.

I don’t want to say no, because I don’t want others to think my friend was thoughtless and exploitative, because she was not. I don’t want to say yes, because I don’t want them to think differently of me. If all were transparent, millions were left to many social and community organizations, and I was provided a sum some might consider substantial, but it really won’t change my lifestyle.

How can I respond to these neighbors?

GENTLE READER: Funny how those neighbors, who were not interested in her when she was alive, have suddenly developed an interest.

Of course, you do not want to satisfy this unseemly curiosity. Miss Manners suggests that this is an occasion for a nonanswer, such as, “It was a privilege to know her, and I miss her.” Should probing persist, you could add, “It’s a shame you didn’t know her better. She was a lovely person.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know that in the past, it has been a custom to refer to a wife as “Mrs. Husband’s-First-Name Last-Name.” While I, admittedly, have never been a fan of the custom, as I have a name and it is not my husband’s, I have tried to respect the tradition.

However, I can’t help but feel, in this day and age, that the fact that women have names might be something we can address.

My husband gets the mail from our mailbox and was thoroughly confused because we received an invitation addressed to “Mrs. First-Initial Last-Name.” He thought he had been invited to a bridal shower, and I don’t blame him. A quick glance certainly makes it look like he was the invitee. Our friends also had the same response, as their invitations were sent in the same manner.

Has there been any change in customs/manners to allow a woman to exist on her own? I certainly feel like the least someone could do is give the correct initial of a first name. Or am I being too progressive?

GENTLE READER: Too progressive? Where have you been?

The old form is in such rare use now as to have left your entire circle flummoxed. Indeed, courtesy titles of any kind are in danger of disappearing.

Miss Manners hopes that you are not suggesting that we cease to respect and start to attack those who follow the old custom. Surely it would be easier to teach your husband that “Mrs.” always refers to a lady.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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