Q: I received a letter from a friend soliciting donations for a co-worker of hers whose stepmother had died. There was nothing in the letter indicating what the money was needed for or if it would go to a charity, only a reference to a funding website created by the family of the deceased. As far as I know, the family is not needy, and all the children are grown and supporting themselves.
I know families solicit donations for charity in memory of the deceased or to help out if the deceased had dependents, but I’ve never heard of a situation like this. Am I just clueless or is this a typical request?
A: Unfortunately, many people now think of friendship as a pay-as-they-go proposition. Every step of life — birth, birthdays, graduations, engagement, marriage and the birth cycle again — seems to require a payment. Not a thoughtful, symbolic present chosen to please that specific person, mind you, but a simple payment.
And yes, Miss Manners regrets to say that many have added death as a fundraising opportunity. It began with the reasonable notion of avoiding a surfeit of flowers by suggesting a charitable donation to a cause connected with the deceased’s interests or illness. To this was added the kindness of collecting money in cases where the bereavement was a severe financial blow.
But now it seems to be turning into an automatic assumption that the bereaved need to be paid. Miss Manners would think that solvent people would be offended at the idea that money is some sort of compensation for a death.
Q: Next month, I am hosting a graduation party for my stepdaughter. Her mother has felt the need to invite several of her friends to the party without asking me. When I asked my stepdaughter if she wanted them there, she said, “They might bring money.”
First, I am appalled at her attitude that a graduation party is a money grab, and I told her you would be, too. Second, how do I approach her mother to say that if she wants to invite her friends, then she should throw a party and not expect me to foot the bill?
A: Yes, Miss Manners is as appalled as you that your stepdaughter regards her graduation party as an opportunity to shake down as many people as possible. But apparently you are not innocent, either, of calculating social obligations in terms of money.
Personally, Miss Manners believes that the guest lists of graduation parties should consist of graduates and their friends. But yours seems to be for adult friends of the parents, and you seem already to have included your stepdaughter’s mother, in which case she should be able to have her friends.
You could have asked her to be a hostess and, as such, to discuss with you what each of you is willing to spend on the party. If it is too late for that, your calculating the cost of what a reasonable number of the mother’s friends might eat is as grubby as your stepdaughter’s matching that against the amount of the take they might bring.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.