DEAR MISS MANNERS: Loud-mouthed, so-called "friends" of my deceased husband never miss an opportunity to say (in public) how well off I must be because of his benefits, etc.!
I find this offensive, embarrassing and none of their business. He was in a service club with these louts, and he obviously spoke too freely about our finances. This is not a large town, and tradesmen are all too willing to overcharge widows of any walk of life. For that reason, I seldom mention that I'm a widow.
I sacrificed a lot due to his job -- transfers, loneliness and virtually raising our children alone -- and I resent their attitude. Is it jealousy? Or stupidity?
Also, some young parents feel that as a widow I should be happy to baby-sit their kids for free. I hardly know these people -- they aren't related to me -- and saying so doesn't seem to penetrate. I've thought of saying I charge $10 an hour to end this.
One friend constantly comments on my weight. I've lost weight but feel that is very personal and I resent her "evaluation." She has gained quite a bit, but I was brought up that comments on appearance are a no-no unless complimentary.
GENTLE READER: Isn't it time for another transfer?
Miss Manners acknowledges you will have a hard time finding a place where people don't rudely comment on other people's money and weight. But surely there must be one town left, somewhere, where the merchants don't have a policy of hiking prices for widows and, presumably, orphans.
If you insist upon staying where you are, Miss Manners is afraid you must learn to make firm replies to offensive remarks. Not offensive replies, just firm ones.
The friend who comments on your weight should be told, "I hope you're not keeping track of my weight because you are worried that I might be ill. I'm actually fine. I hope you are, too?"
The young parents would probably take seriously your statement of a fee, perhaps hoping to negotiate. So unless you want to go into the business, you need only say, "Oh, I'm afraid I don't do baby-sitting."
As for your husband's friends, you could shame them by looking tearful and saying, "Well off? I lost my husband! You call that well off?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: After my child was born, we started calling one of my ex-stepmothers "Grandma" (My newest step-mom, who was around when this happened, is being called Nana).
My own mother doesn't have a problem with it, but my mother-in-law seems to think my child will be confused, because she's starting to talk now and says we should stop calling the ex-stepmother grandma, and use her first name only.
Now I'm confused. What would Miss Manners call her?
GENTLE READER: A busybody, but not to her face. That would be rude.
Oh, you mean what would you call the ex-stepmother now known as Grandma, as opposed to Nana, the new-step-mother, and the other ex-step-mothers, who are called -- what? "Granny" and "Bubbles"?
If your child were not confused, Miss Manners would be worried. But even in families with less active grandfathers, children have two grandmothers, and they find a way to distinguish between them.
The ex-stepmother should be called Grandma, because that is what she wants to be called, and because you don't want to confuse your child even more by switching all the names around. If your mother-in-law wishes to be called Grandma, she should be, too, and if she finds it confusing, and yet objects to adding her first or last name to the title for the sake of clarity, she should at least be clear about who is adding to the confusion.