DEAR MISS MANNERS: The scenario: the 50th wedding anniversary of my favorite uncle and his wife. (Note the phrasing.) He and I were very close and had frequent conversations until I came out five years ago and my wife and I separated.
Since then, by his choice, our contact has been minimal, and his interest in my life has gone from high to none. So I was very pleased to have the opportunity again to see both him and my four cousins, all of whom I enjoy immensely. And I was doubly glad to see him after considering the actuarial tables, since it was likely our last personal visit.
While there's no question that this was Their Evening and that the anniversary couple was, quite rightly, the center of attention, these family events are also catch-up times, with everybody sharing news since the last big get-together at a cousin's wedding in the previous century. So what does the black sheep of the family share?
I wasn't going to volunteer anything that would likely be seen as inflammatory (or as "rubbing their faces in my lifestyle"), but if I was asked a question, I would answer it without editing my pronouns. (I have a partner of four years, so saying "I went to Australia this spring" would be grammatically accurate, but nonetheless misleading.)
We all find ourselves in situations where a little less detail makes for a more agreeable evening, but when family is involved, there's always the subtext, "How well do you really want to know ME?" I would appreciate your guidance on this subject.
GENTLE READER: Yes, there is always that question, no matter how harmonious the family situation, and you are wise to recognize it. Miss Manners can think of loving relatives who would turn enemies if they freely discussed their politics, never mind their love lives.
Once one has the maturity to recognize that principle should not automatically trump the claims of family -- although Miss Manners recognizes that there are tragic cases in which it must -- applying it becomes a matter of judgment. Your plan of discussing public matters, such as your taking a trip with your partner, but not private ones, such as how happy you are together, seems a reasonable balance.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a pet peeve. When invited to dinner, be it to someone's home or an evening out, is it not appropriate for the inviter to inform the invitee that others will also be joining the dinner engagement if that is the intent? Does this not rate rather high on the rudeness scale, not to inform?
GENTLE READER: If you are encouraged to arrive dressed for a quiet evening and discover that it is a major dinner party, with everyone all tucked out, yes, Miss Manners agrees that it weighs on the rudeness scale. Maybe not on the top, but high.
If you are unknowingly lured to encounter someone known to be your enemy, also yes.
Otherwise, the custom is to warn people only that there will not be other guests and they will have to talk to their hosts all evening. The phrase used, in a voice suggesting coziness, is "It will be just us."