This is the second Q&A column by B. Elliott, a frequent WVFC commentator, on “doing the right thing” in our quickly evolving culture Feel free to contact Ms. Elliott at WFVC for solutions to your troublesome social problems. Just address your query to B. Elliott and type it into the comment box at the bottom of the post.—Ed.

Dear B. Elliott:

I was widowed a few years ago. My husband’s medical bills were higher than anyone could have anticipated, and some of our investments in the meantime took a nosedive. I now find myself in somewhat reduced circumstances. While we didn’t have a lavish lifestyle, we did belong to a country club, but that no longer makes financial sense for me. We also used to go to the opera and the theater occasionally. I want to continue to live in the same community and see my old friends, but I can’t afford to do many of these things anymore, and I especially can’t reciprocate when they take me out to dinner. I am afraid my friends will soon drift away if I can’t keep up.

Feeling lost, Lorraine


Dear Lorraine:

Many people find themselves living on less these days, though this might feel like a small consolation to you. Of course, if the club was the center of your social world and you were part of a “couple,” you are naturally going to feel isolated now. The most important thing is to not give up the things you love to do, but to find a creative way of doing these affordably. For the past six years, the Metropolitan Opera in New York has broadcast live HD performances for a minimal admission fee at many local movie houses throughout the U.S. On April 7, a new production of Massanet’s Manon is on the docket; on April 14, the opera will be Verdi favorite La Traviata. Check for viewing locations here. 

(Photo: Madame Ming, flickr)

As for paying people back, don’t worry about going “dollar for dollar.” People do love to be invited to someone’s home, and it is happening less and less these days. So even if you are a terrible cook and/or filet mignon isn’t in your budget, you can still entertain nicely. Many women would love to be invited to tea, and it needn’t be “high,” either. Whip up a few crust less sandwiches (Pepperidge Farm thin-sliced bread is best, and how costly is a cucumber?), offer one tempting sweet, and pour a selection of regular and decaf/herbal teas. For inspiration, check out The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea,   by Helen Simpson, or The Book of Afternoon Tea, by Lesley Mackey, at the library. Just reading the rituals and recipes (of the former) and looking at the photos (of the latter) is a treat. Even if you haven’t become a fan of the PBS series, call your gathering a Downtown Abbey party if getting together for tea seems a bit out of the blue. Remember, fun—and friendship—is what counts.

Another idea might be to host a simple tray supper when a special event, or even just a movie of which you are particularly fond, is on the tube. Make /buy a hearty soup, stew, or potpie, serve a salad, and finish with some easy dessert, such as brownies topped with ice cream. Fun trivia fact: Actress Katharine Hepburn “ahhhhhhh-dooooored” dining on a folding tray table, and she did so most evenings later in life in her New York City townhouse.
Your circumstances are those almost anyone could face in the future, as people have in the past. Don’t think of your new life as stripped- down; think of it as beautifully simplified. “Long ago in 1945, all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions . . .” begins The Girls of Slender Means, by Dame Muriel Spark. Now that is a great short novel, written by the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Come to think of it, Lorraine, why not start a book group? Be interesting, and people will continue to be interested in you, even though you’re coping with “reduced circumstances.”











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