DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have recently separated, and divorce is imminent. We have established separate households and share parenting obligations for our children.
The gentleman has recently moved in with his girlfriend of a few years, having recently revealed the clandestine relationship.
When I have encountered this person, dear Miss Manners, I am polite. I have not maligned her, either to my children or to the public. However, as you can imagine, I do not wish to associate with her in any way.
What is the problem? The problem is that this person is attempting to be friendly and apparently trying to establish our former relationship. We were casual acquaintances prior to, and during, her affair with my soon-to-be-ex-spouse.
While I acknowledge the need to associate with her occasionally for the sake of the children, how can I handle this situation correctly, yet convey my unwillingness to be around this person?
GENTLE READER: The setting you are looking for is cool. Cold and hot (whether the latter describes anger or passion) are out of place at family gatherings, because they demand partisanship on the part of others, a demand you have been courteous enough to avoid.
Cool behavior consists of doing everything socially required in a correct but abbreviated fashion. You greet the person with a short smile indicated by the turning up of the corners of the mouth but no accompanying sign of pleasure in the eyes. You answer any questions in few, neutral words ("Thank you, I'm fine"), avoid asking of your own ("I trust you are well" can substitute for "How are you?") and seize the first opportunity to say "Excuse me" and turn away.
Should this fail -- should your former friend attempt, for example, to hug you -- Miss Manners gives you permission to turn it up to frosty. At that setting, "Excuse me" immediately follows the greeting.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I attended a baby shower for a cousin I rarely have a chance to see, I purchased, along with gifts from the gift registry, a few powder-scented candles and dried herbs (I've heard she's a great cook) as a gift for her.
She proceeded to ridicule the fact that I purchased candles for a home with a baby on the way, and said, "When am I going to have time to cook?"
I got those gifts as a nice gesture and was laughed at for it. Also, my gift was not the only one judged. Since I rarely see her, should I confront her about it, or should I be the mature one and let it go?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners supposes that you could make a case for removing the coming child from this person's care on the grounds that she has demonstrated herself to be incapable of looking after the child's welfare. One birthday party where that child imitates such behavior and her social fate will be sealed.
But it seems a great deal of trouble for someone you rarely see, and you have already taken far too much trouble on her behalf. Miss Manners recommends taking less by simply crossing proven ingrates from your list.