Bringing back the ‘salon’ to facilitate friendships
Dear Miss Manners: I’m almost in tears and I’m not even the one affected.
I have a difficult cousin who is getting married. She has no friends. No one is standing up for her, there are no showers or festivities, and the one abortive attempt at one was canceled because no one would come. I’ve had trouble with this person in the past, but I wouldn’t wish this on an enemy, much less a relative.
As I reflected on what I could do for her (I’m throwing a small party in her honor and prevailing on my own friends to come meet the bride), it occurred to me that I am surrounded by lonely friends, relatives and acquaintances who are living like virtual hermits. They only happen to brush up against other people at work or grocery shopping and they are depressed about it. I’m hardly a popular person, but I try to make introductions.
What can the somewhat-more-popular people do to relieve the friendlessness of the less popular people they know and care about? What has happened to society, Miss Manners?
Gentle Reader: Some of the things that happened to society: Screen time. Longer work hours. The shirking of guest responsibilities – including answering invitations, showing up and reciprocating – resulting in an unwillingness to entertain.
The shirking of host responsibilities, so that those who do entertain rarely have their hospitality reciprocated.
The notion that any gathering must be about an occasion and one that involves presents for the hosts.
The redefinition of “friends” to describe strangers.
The elevation of the importance of the menu to the extent that attempting to provide a communal meal, even within a family, means catering to a bewildering variety of requirements and preferences. Bless you for trying to fix this. But Miss Manners has a suggestion – one that she has plucked out of the past. At its grandest, it was called keeping a salon; the more modest version was having “a day” when one would be “at home.” The idea was to have a regular time when acquaintances may drop in without notice.
They needn’t commit themselves, but would always find a welcome. Those who find it interesting will soon introduce others. And acquire friends.
Please send questions to Miss Manners at www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
By Judith Martin and Nicholas Ivor Martin