DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 21-year-old woman who is very close with my 86-year-old grandmother, and I see her weekly. Sometimes when my friends come up in conversation, my grandmother will refer to the female ones as my “girlfriends.”
I refer to all my friends as “friends,” regardless of gender. I am also bisexual, which my grandmother knows and accepts, but she continues to refer to my female friends as “girlfriends,” even knowing the possibility that I could have a romantic girlfriend.
I have politely corrected her when she refers to a female friend as my girlfriend — “I’m not dating her, we’re just friends” — but she continues to do it. She is in good shape, physically and mentally, and she holds progressive opinions, so it’s likely not a matter of an old dog not being able to learn new tricks.
Is this an ingrained generational difference, or could I persuade her differently?
GENTLE READER: No, and probably not.
The fact is that even now, many people, young and old, use “girlfriend” in either sense — as the female in a friendship or in a romance. You are not going to win that one.
Miss Manners suggests that you try teaching your grandmother to refer to your romantic interests as “partners” — and try learning not to be upset if she doesn’t.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the matter with young people expecting guests to travel to far-flung destinations for weddings that could easily be celebrated locally?
My grandson’s oldest and dearest friend is getting married on Long Island, New York. The groom’s younger brother planned a bachelor party in New Orleans.
As a groomsman, my grandson has the expense of flying to New Orleans, two nights’ hotel stay, food and drinks. Then there is the wedding: tux rental and a generous gift for his best friend.
The bachelor party could have been held on Long Island or even in Manhattan, which would have eliminated airfare and hotel stays.
Have young people any sense of values? None of these people come from affluent families. All working people. Can you knock some good common sense into them?
GENTLE READER: Shouldn’t your grandson try? Did he tell the bridegroom’s brother that he regretted that he could not attend the bachelor party? Did he talk to the other groomsmen, who may have felt the same way?
Wedding industry propaganda has succeeded in making many outrageous expenses seem not only desirable, but necessary. Many bridal couples go into serious debt for their weddings.
Miss Manners believes that they are receptive because weddings — and to a lesser extent, proms, which are also subject to ridiculous costs — are the only really festive occasions in their lives. Everything else being strictly casual — even work, now — their wedding is their only chance to dress up, to participate in rituals and, one must admit, to show off.
But if others refused to go along with it, and stopped spending their money and holiday time witnessing other people’s extravagant fantasies, sense might prevail.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Am I correct in my belief that, circa 1800, the initials engraved on a spoon would have been those of the wife’s married name?
GENTLE READER: More likely they would be her maiden initials, as those who could collect silver began doing so before marriage. Sometimes even before the prospect of marriage, but also during long engagements.
It strikes Miss Manners as all the more practical nowadays, when long engagements have returned, whether because of elaborate wedding planning or the interruption of having children.