DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am trying to do what used to be called "snubbing," but the snubee is making it very difficult.
A woman who is a member of a well-known family in my city was arrested several years ago for, among other things, improper sexual activity with a minor. There were allegedly drugs involved and there were also accusations that her illegal activities may have taken place in the presence of her young children. All of this was covered in detail by the local papers, as was her eventual guilty pleads to lesser charges, which reduced her sentence to time served.
Here's where I come in to this mess:
This woman's young son is in my son's kindergarten class, and the boys have become good friends. Stevie has been over to play at our house and is always welcome. He is a sweet child and as his parents are separated in the wake of his mother's legal problems; he seems to have a chaotic home life and appears to enjoy the relative normalcy of our home. (He and his sister live with their mom.)
Stevie's mother has apparently decided that she and I should also be friends. She wants to sit with me at parents' events at the school, invites me to have lunch with her, calls to chat, etc. I have managed to be "busy" when she proposes one-on-one activities, and to "lose" her as quickly as possible in large groups, but she is very persistent.
Worst of all, she invites my son over to her house to play. In a normal situation, this would be expected, but I will absolutely not leave my child alone with this woman.
When I decline these invitations, she always asks why, and my responses have evolved from vague to fairly pointed. "I'm more comfortable with the boys at my house" is the latest. But still, she refuses to take the hint. Short of "because you're a child molester, that's why," how can I respond politely but unequivocally?
I do feel sorry for her and the mess she has made of her life, and I don't want to hurt her son, but I cannot be her friend or allow my son to play at her house. Any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: Yes: Keep stopping short of "because you're a child molester, that's why." You do not want to enter into a discussion with her, or with anyone else, about letting bygones be bygones after someone has paid her debt to society, as they say. You do not even want to argue the merits of the case and whether the charges of which she was legally proven guilty are enough to make her socially undesirable.
Miss Manners is sorry to be harsh when the society has become so generous about granting fresh starts. But if we do not judge people on their own deeds, upon what do we judge them?
And even among those of spotless reputation, you are free to choose your friends. People who fail to understand polite individual rebuffs about being busy should be given general ones: "You're kind to keep asking me, but I really hardly have time for my old friends," and "I appreciate your inviting my son, but I hope you will let Stevie continue to visit us instead, because I insist that they play here."