Dear Miss Manners • Many years ago, I established a college fund for my nephew. As it turns out, the nephew never attended any post-high school education or training.
I would like to give this money to his mother, my sister. She, frankly, is not doing well; she lives alone and the money would provide some help as she nears retirement.
What should I tell her when I give her the gift? If I say that the money is from the nephew's college fund, she may feel guilty. On the other hand, if I don't explain the source of the funds, she might not understand why I am giving her the gift — or wonder if there might be more in the future.
Gentle Reader • It is not necessary to mention the nephew. Miss Manners feels certain that it will only cause unneeded discord for a present that is intended to bring your sister comfort.
"I would like to make a contribution to you to help out with things" is enough. If she chooses to accept it, she can always leave it for her son -- especially if he someday has an educational change of heart.
Dear Miss Manners • I have been invited to my niece's wedding, which has been downsized due to COVID. My same-sex spouse of 30 years has not been invited to the wedding itself, but they are included in a small "watch party" at a different venue. We plan to celebrate and be good guests, though of course it would be more enjoyable for us if we could be together.
I understand the details, and support my family in the tough decisions they have had to make. However, I noticed that the spouse of my in-laws' sibling has been invited to the main event. I can rationalize that decision, but still have a lingering feeling that my marriage is not being given the same weight.
I know that I will not have a conversation with my sibling about my spouse's place. I believe they are making the best decisions they can under the circumstances, and that my job as their guest is to accept the invitation or not. I just wonder if there is any wisdom from the world of etiquette to help me think about this more productively.
Gentle Reader • You are already being more gracious and understanding than any reasonable person — including Miss Manners — would be. Spouses must normally be invited, but if emergency circumstances are cited, then the rule about extended guests (children, support animals, etc.) applies. This is flexible by category, but then it needs to be universal. If the spouses are being invited, then all of them should be.
Unfortunately, as you said, all that you can do now is accept or not.
Not wanting to start a rift, you may well choose to go. However, if asked about the whereabouts of your spouse, you may say, "Watching on video" with a slightly sad and apologetic expression -- but of course no accusatory explanation.