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A Choice of Words

A few weeks back, while I was out for a walk, I ran into a woman who walks a lot, too. She was with a couple of friends who were visiting for the weekend. We got to talking about the pandemic and the frustration of being confined all the time. I said, “Sometimes, I feel like I want to kill myself.” I guess it wasn’t very funny. The woman who’d introduced us called me that evening and told me that her friends were the parents of a young woman who killed herself a couple of months ago. I was embarrassed beyond words. The woman says she thinks I need to apologize, but I meant no harm. I scarcely know them. Please help. — Anonymous, Hillwood

Thoughtlessness happens when we aren’t thinking. Your off-the-cuff remark may be something you say all the time. This time, how were you to know? The woman with the backstory on her friends may have been right to let you know that you’d made a mistake. But her advice is just that. Who knows if the parents were hurt by your gaffe? You’ll have to decide for yourself how to clear your conscience and clean up after yourself. You have options: Call the parents and tell them you’re sorry for your misspeaking. (That’s what it was; you didn’t intend to cause pain.) If they don’t pick up the phone, don’t apologize via voicemail. Perhaps they’ll return the call; maybe not. You might send them a note, but don’t get into the details of a situation about which you know very little. Or just file this mistake away. You’ve learned something. Don’t let it happen again.

A Reply Is Requested

Back in April, the daughter of a friend was forced to postpone her wedding at the start of the quarantine. Her invitations had already gone out, so she had to handle all the postponing business via email, which made sense to me. But I, and a lot of others, had already sent our gifts. The wedding, much reduced in size, went ahead and happened. But no thank you notes have shown up. Instead, the bride sent out another email, saying thank you to all of us and promising a note in the future. This seems rude to me. Am I right? — Anonymous, Brentwood

The first email handled an awkward moment as neatly as possible. Right through here, let’s be grateful for any way to get us through canceled celebrations. The invitations were in the mail and the gifts had started arriving, but the second email didn’t relieve the bride of any responsibility. Sometimes, for actual in-person weddings (remember those?), when gifts pile in in quantity, a printed note goes out right away, just to make sure everybody knows that the gifts have safely arrived. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. The bride may think she’s begging time, but if note-writing doesn’t get underway before long, she’ll be begging off. Now that she and the groom are back from their virtual honeymoon, they can get out their pens and paper. Nobody’s doing jigsaw puzzles anymore.