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Not All Personal Milestones Warrant an Infusion of Cash

Dear Miss Manners : In the past couple of years, I have been invited to three separate fundraisers for women who were going through divorces. The purpose was to raise money to pay court costs during divorce hearings and custody hearings. Only one of these women did I know personally; the others were friends of friends.

I may be wrong, but I feel it is rude to solicit your friends for money to pay for your divorce, and even more rude to have them solicit their friends who are strangers to you.

These fundraisers were not anything someone would want to participate in unless they were doing someone a favor. (For example, one was a silent auction for shoddily made crafts that another friend had created; they were poorly done and nothing you’d want in your home.)

Am I correct in my belief that divorce costs are a private affair and should not be shared among friends, or am I just being stingy?

Gentle Reader : It hardly seems stingy to not want to pay for strangers’ divorces. Even the people who were married to them resent doing that.

But Miss Manners has noticed that what you describe is part of a much larger problem. Many people have come to believe that all milestones in their lives — including, but not limited to, birthdays, graduations, changing residences, engagements, weddings, births, divorces and funerals — entitle them to demand sponsorship from others. Relatives, friends, friends’ friends, professional acquaintances and the world at large may be targeted.

It takes various forms: Bridal couples spreading the vulgar urban legend that guests must spend on them the amount of money that it costs to entertain them; self-sufficient adults pressuring their pensioned parents to pay for multiple weddings; birthday celebrants summoning people for a restaurant celebration for which they are expected to pay; expectant mothers giving their own showers or having their relatives do so; even the bereaved asking for donations for funeral costs or orphans’ education.

This does not usually represent warm communities reaching out to help those in need. Rather, it is apt to be solvent people who want more, reaching out on their own behalf. And the donors can by no means count on their generosity being reciprocated.

Furthermore, the demands keep rising. There is the invention of the engagement gift; the elevation of the shower present from amusing trivia to become equivalent to a wedding present; the graduation party that is no longer just for the graduate’s friends but for the parents’ circle; the infant birthday parties for adults; the workplace collection; and above all, the gift registry.

So Miss Manners is not surprised to hear about the divorce fundraiser. What surprises her is the willingness of people to be shamed into diverting their philanthropic resources from the needy to the greedy. She trusts that you simply declined the honor politely.

Dear Miss Manners : My daughter-in-law uses her name when making hotel reservations for the entire family. Should not she have used her husband’s name?

She also has her voice on the answering machine. Should not the husband be the one with a message on the answering machine?

Gentle Reader : Disliking your daughter-in-law does not entitle you to declare her a non-person. Besides, Miss Manners feels obliged to tell you, it won’t work.

Dear Miss Manners: I’m a reasonably attractive woman who is blessed with a number of strikingly beautiful female friends. It’s not uncommon for my friends to be approached by men, and when this happens at a dance club, I smile and give my blessing as my friends are whisked off to the dance floor.

After all, that’s the culture of those places, isn’t it? But in other situations, I sometimes find men’s behavior to be more difficult to accept with grace.

A good friend and I had gone out for dinner and then to a local bar for drinks; our plan for the evening was to chat and catch up on each other’s lives. An acquaintance of hers happened to be there and joined us at our table. My friend introduced me, and there were a few moments of pleasant small talk.

Then this man proceeded to angle his body toward my friend, stare at her, touch her on the arm, caress her face — for all the world behaving as if they were on a date! When he went to the restroom, I pointed this out to my friend, who insisted that “he’s not hitting on me; he acts like that toward everyone.” (She did seem genuinely surprised to find out later that I had been right.)

While my friend continued to include me in the conversation, her acquaintance did not. I endured this man’s behavior for some time, finally making an excuse to leave as gracefully as I could. I did this with a smile on my face, and neither one of them knew (until I discussed it with my friend the next day) that I had been angry.

I’m now wondering if there is anything I could have said or done, within the realm of polite conduct, to make it clear to the man that his conduct was unpleasant to me. I don’t want to be rude in these situations — especially as I expect it would be construed as jealousy or “sour grapes” — but I also feel that making a polite excuse and heading home only rewards the man for his rudeness. While my evening is ruined, he gets exactly what he wants — to be alone with the woman he’s after. What should I do next time?

Gentle Reader: There is no need for you to make an excuse when you have already been excluded. Just make a graceful exit, saying, with as much good humor as you can muster, “You two seem to have a lot to talk about, so I’ll leave you.”

This should be addressed to both of them. If you are not urged to stay and the conversation opened to include you, and you still end up going home, Miss Manners trusts that you will know with whom you really should be upset for deserting you.

Dear Miss Manners: I went to an interview for a part-time job wearing an expensive blazer and blouse, heels, good jewelry and makeup, along with a pair of classically tailored denim trousers — not jeans.

The administrative assistant met me at the door with a full-bodied scream — I do not exaggerate — “You’re wearing jeans! Mr. X. hates jeans.”

I was somewhat taken aback, but I said calmly, “If you have a company dress code, I shall tell him that, if hired, I shall certainly comply with it.”

Her response was to tell me that I could not interview that day and to come back when I was dressed differently. I left feeling confused and insulted. I was not told to wear specific clothes to the interview, and I certainly looked professional; I am 60 years old and a college professor.

My thoughts are that if this company did not want to hire me, that was entirely up to them, but to treat me this way was incredibly discourteous. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Gentle Reader: You are not, Miss Manners assumes, asking her to understand the distinction between denim trousers and jeans, even if Praxiteles himself did the alterations.

But perhaps she can help by sharing her suspicion that the administrative assistant may not have been acting with the full support of her boss and company. As you say, why would the company encourage such behavior?

If Miss Manners is correct, you might have a different problem, namely that the assistant, surprised at your compliance, neglected to mention to her boss not just your apparel, but your appearance.

A written note to the boss explaining that you were sorry to be turned away from the interview should result in his either chastising the assistant or — if she was transmitting his orders — thanking her for sparing him the sight of denim.

Miss Manners is written by Judith Martin, her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. You are invited to email your etiquette questions from www.missmanners.com, if you promise to use the black or blue-black ink you’ll save by writing those thank you, condolence and congratulations letters you owe.