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Advice | Miss Manners: Neighbor says we can’t afford our new car


Dear Ms. Manners,: My husband and I traded in his car for a used luxury sedan. When we got home from the dealer, one of our neighbors looked at the car, then at us, and asked if we had bought a new car. I said, “Well, it’s used, but new to us,” and smiled. She replied back, “You can’t afford that.” I laughed and said, “I had no idea you were my financial advisor.”

She got very angry and told me, “You don’t have to be a jerk about it.” I shrugged and said, “But if you say ‘you can’t afford that,’ aren’t you?” She ran away in a fit of rage. We walked away and decided to ignore her in the future.

Was I hypersensitive? I guess it doesn’t really matter because we just have a chat with her. No friendship has developed from our interactions.

Nor is it likely, thinks Miss Manners. You responded to rudeness with even more rudeness, which didn’t make you feel better, prevented your neighbor from reconsider her own behavior, and increased the total amount of unhappiness in the world. For one of those reasons, she would have thought it mattered.

Dear Ms. Manners,: My father passed away two years ago. He was not a religious man, strictly a “weddings and funerals” sort of thing when it came to church, and was not held in high esteem by the clergy.

When he passed away, our family requested that in lieu of flowers, people make donations to an educational foundation he and my mother founded, or to the wonderful hospice that took such good care of him in his final weeks. While many honored that request, many more instead gave money to their churches for a certain number of masses, or even perpetual masses, to be said for his soul.

While this may seem worthy of the giver, it bothered me. Nevertheless, we wrote thank-you notes to everyone for recognizing their gesture to do “something” in my father’s honor.

But wasn’t that to tell them to repeat the same thing next time for others who might not appreciate it? Sure, when my mom passed away a few months ago, we did the same exercise.

Why do people ignore the wishes of the grieving family? And what is an appropriate way to respond without encouraging the gesture in the future?

By not encouraging donations at all. With respect both to the American entrepreneurial spirit and to your own loss, funerals are not opportunities to raise money.

They are not even gift giving opportunities as the honoree is sadly no longer able to derive any pleasure from the thoughtfulness of their loved ones. Food or flowers are brought as a sign of respect – and to provide immediate assistance to the widow or child if they are grieving.

Ms. Manners agrees that you will still need to express your thanks, but perhaps friends who have not been instructed to make donations will be more likely to grieve with you.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday washingtonpost.com/advice. You can ask questions to Ms. Manners on her website, mismanners. com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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