Meeting the parents

Q  My daughter has been dating someone for almost three years. We see her, and him, often. His parents, who live in California, are coming to town. My daughter, who has met his parents, and her boyfriend would like us to all meet. Do we initiate this, or should they?

A  Why don’t you ask your daughter if she would like you to invite them to your home, If yes, it makes sense for you to do the inviting. Even if your daughter or her boyfriend mention the plan to his parents, you should nonetheless obtain a mailing address or email and invite them directly if the solution is that you host at your home. It is always uncomfortable to receive a second- or third-hand invitation so the invitation should come from you, not from your daughter and her boyfriend. If your daughter or her boyfriend’s parents would rather arrange a restaurant meeting, then they should do the planning and inviting.

Q  Should a condolence card be addressed to a spouse as well as the person with the loss?

A  Generally, yes, if you know both of them. It is presumed that the spouse also feels a sense of loss, so you would not exclude him or her in your condolences. If you only know the person who has suffered the direct loss of a parent or other close relative, you would more ordinarily extend your sympathy only to him or her, perhaps including the spouse and children in your note — my sincere sympathy to you and your family — for example.

Q  My husband calls waitresses “darling” or “sweetheart” or “honey.” He means it nicely, but it makes me cringe. This isn’t correct, is it?

A  No, because it is not respectful, and actually sounds demeaning. Ask him if he would call his boss any of those “endearments.” A waitress is no different than his boss — she is a person, who should be respected. She may not run a corporation, but she is a professional in her field. A simple “thank you” is fine, or a request for a utensil or something else, without adding a name, “miss,” or “waitress,” and certainly not what will be perceived as a condescending term.

Q  One of my work colleagues just lost his job. The company is downsizing and I assume this is the reason, but don’t really know. What should I say?

A  Don’t pry, don’t gossip, don’t criticize the company. Do say that you heard he would be leaving the company and you are sorry, because you will miss him. Don’t ask him what he is going to do. Do say that you know he will be an asset to any new company. Do offer any support that makes sense such as helping him pack up, or serving as a reference or keeping your ears open for any job leads. By all means, listen if he wants to talk about it, but let him take the lead on that.

Questions for Catherine? Send them to [email protected]

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