Miss Manners, Judith Martin, Published May 26 2012
Miss Manners: Birthday party loses focus when engagement is announcedDEAR MISS MANNERS: My best friend and my older sister and I, whose birthdays are only days apart, decided to celebrate together, meaning that a number of the people invited were not in my particular inner circle of friends, but mere acquaintances I know fairly well. During the festivities, my best friend’s cousin’s new fiancee decided to stop the ongoings and proceeded to announce their engagement, “seeing as almost everyone is here anyway.”
I was infuriated. It seems to me that at almost every wedding or other major event, someone makes an announcement, stealing the attention away from the people whose celebration it is. I was equally as upset when, at my sister’s wedding, a couple made the point of announcing that it was their wedding anniversary and requested their wedding song and a dance.
Is it just me? I mean, it seems incredibly rude. If you want to celebrate your wedding anniversary, throw your own party. Same goes for your engagement – have an engagement party, and the attention will be all yours.
One should know better than to do something like that. I may sound bitter and petty, but I rarely spend time with my friends (seeing as I live in another town now), so I want to spend these moments free from the selfishness of others. I guess I’m as selfish as they are. Am I wrong to be upset?
GENTLE READER: Perhaps you had better explain what you mean by others “stopping the ongoings.”
Were the three of you blowing out your birthday candles when that young lady cried, “Stop! I just got engaged”? Were your sister and her bridegroom opening the dancing, only to have the other couple instruct the band that as it was their anniversary, their song should be played first?
If not, Miss Manners is puzzled at your fury. Surely the guests at these events did not abandon their interest in the stated occasions. But – surely – this does not require focusing unrelieved attention on the principals.
Indeed, it would be selfish to expect guests to refrain from the usual socializing that such events allow. As this brings together relatives and friends who may not often see one another, the exchange of news is bound to take place.
Indeed, there are people who feel honored when others share their birthdays or anniversaries with them, and are themselves the ones to announce such facts. Miss Manners does not require you to do this, but she does want you to stop feeling that you must hoard your guests’ attention.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Here in Washington, D.C., I’ve noticed that it seems to be the custom to stand when bigwigs (Cabinet members, ambassadors) enter the room. But I’ve always been taught that Americans don’t have royalty, and don’t need to stand or bow to anyone. Could you resolve this question?
GENTLE READER: Do you not see the difference between up and down? Standing up is a sign of respect; bowing down is a sign of subservience. Miss Manners is shocked when Americans bow or curtsy to foreign royalty, but she does not bristle, as you do, over a mere show of respect.
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