Society used to have ways that the miserable among us could warn people to treat them gently, such as black clothes, black-edged writing paper or black wreaths on the door. But those were the days before the Internet notion that what everyone really needed was complete disclosure.

Enter the seriously ill, who now must not only deal with their catastrophe, but the disastrously boorish who feel compelled to comment. We’ve already discussed what not to say to the bereaved, so here’s the first cousin: What not to say to the seriously ill.

“My mother had cancer and she died.” Lovely lady though she was, cancer is not a club. You do not have hereditary membership so do not do a roll call. Contrary to popular belief, misery does not love company.

“Your hair’s going to grow back.” How could you possibly know this? Why even speculate?

“Your wig looks so natural.” Then why are you commenting?

“Everything will be fine.” Reassurance is a wonderful thing, especially if it comes from a doctor. Say this only if you are one.

“God never gives us more than we can bear.” Want to bet?

In the hospital, leave the gravely ill alone unless you’re family. Dollars to doughnuts you’re not the first thing they wish to see when they wake up, and you’re definitely not the last vision they want if they depart this world.

The proper response to the afflicted is a heartfelt “I’m so sorry.” As human beings, we’re all just waiting for that call, so when the ill are out and about in society simply say, “You look great.” It’s what they want to hear.

Just like everyone else.

Patricia Gannon covers society for The Acadiana Advocate. She can be reached at or at

For he’s a jolly good fellow

Surprise, Charlie Justus only thought he was on his way to a friend’s party. Who could mind turning 40 with a swank get-together at the City Club amid friends, family and a chef? Darrellyn and Don Burts put one over on their son-in-law, and he didn’t seem to mind one bit. In on the fun were Elizabeth Bernard, Mark Ackal, Peter and Alexa John, the Rev. Keith Derouen, grandmother Jessie Broussard, Rebecca Ouellet, Allyson Womack and more. By the way, life begins at 40, we can vouch for that.

Friends of Humanities lunch at Petroleum Club

The best education is a liberal arts one, it’s true. Friends of the Humanities met and lunched, while Dr. Mary Ann Wilson riffed on The Catholic-Haunted South: Flannery O’Connor and Rebecca Wells. We can’t think of anything more appropriate for October, and enjoying both the seasonal and academic ambience was UL Provost Jim Henderson, Friends President Linda Alesi, Vice President Judy Kennedy, Dean Gordon Brooks, Dr. Jean Kreamer, University Art Museum Director LouAnne Greenwald, curator Lee Gray, opera lady Christa Delfavro, founding father Ron Gomez, Carol Ross and Suzan Allen. Friends of the Humanities support the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Liberal Arts. “We have a female-run department,” said Wilson. “It moves along like clockwork.”

Dunn hosts animal aid

Judy Dunn put on the dog for Lafayette Animal Aid, the better to support their cause. “We’ve been a no-kill shelter for 40 years,” said board President Melinda Falgout. “The majority of our population comes from kill shelters, surrenders and abuse situations. Come see us — and spay and neuter.” Taking in the entertainment were animal lover Andrea Mitchell, Dr. Sangeeta Shah and husband Anil, Sally Burdette, David Bennett and pretty Wendy Branch and Heather Billingsley. Looking for love was Bella Cupcake and Beauford, a Bassett-German shepherd mix who wowed the crowd in his sailor suit. There’s just something about a man in uniform.

L’Opera de Lafayette gets ready

You don’t have to go to the Met. Classically-trained songbirds Miguel Ochoa and Sasha Massey rehearsed in earnest for their upcoming concert, Une Soirée Parisienne et Espanol. The group, including Dorothy Slater, will make the rafters ring with music by French and Spanish composers at Asbury Methodist Church later this month. Helping them hit the high notes were pianists Hannah Mayo and Karen Laing.