Miss Manners: Are my homemade condolence cards tacky?
Dear Miss Manners: Somewhere along the line, I was led to believe that a handwritten note was preferable to a printed card for expressing sympathy.
I’ve been sending handwritten notes on notecards I make on my computer — the front has a picture of a butterfly flying toward a bright light, and the back has our names and contact information. I leave the inside blank to write on. I admit these cost me very little to make.
My father died a couple of months ago, and I received many beautiful store-bought greeting cards — most with handwritten notes of various lengths about my dad, in addition to the signature below the printed sentiment.
Am I being cheap and gauche to use my homemade cards? Should I be buying expensive cards to send sympathy notes?
A lot of our friends are losing parents, siblings and spouses, and I have quite a few to write. I would really need to buy cards by the box to have enough, but the ones I received were bought individually from the card rack. They are much fancier than the boxed kind or the ones I make myself.
The odd notion that it is somehow important that condolences be sent on a commercial card is widespread, Miss Manners has noted with amazement.
Don’t people understand that the key element of expressing condolences to the bereaved, and tributes to the deceased, is the part that the senders write themselves? That, and not your choice from a card rack, is what makes the card meaningfully personal. Whether you write it on plain paper or designs you find on the computer, or alongside preprinted sentiments, is irrelevant.
Dear Miss Manners: My son, now 26 years old, has been coached his entire life about manners. He has had some difficulty accepting the rationale behind some conventions, but I found him open-minded in a discussion about the proper way to manage silverware.
He accepts most of the requests I have made about his eating habits, but we squared off on the point of holding a fork in the right hand. I found myself speechless when he pointed out that we Americans accept Europeans holding their forks in the left hand.
His point is, why should Americans be offended by other Americans using this eating style, when they are not offended by Europeans doing so? We have agreed to abide by your opinion.
Try cultural appropriation: He’s an American aping European manners.
What makes this worse than appearing to patronize other cultures (a charge that gives Miss Manners trouble, as she generally sees it as flattering) is that it smacks of a different sort of snobbery: that if Europeans do it, it must be fancier.
But it also comes of a historical muddle — that it must be an older tradition, and thus prized by traditionalists. In fact, what is now the American way of eating was the old European one that colonists brought here. It was the Europeans who changed by speeding up, which is exactly what traditionalists would reject.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
2020, by Judith Martin