DEAR MISS MANNERS: Many years ago, I made a professional mistake, which was very public, cost me a career, and has cast a long shadow since. My error arose from honest miscalculation without bad intent. However, others in the organization were glad to use me as a shield to cover up their bad intent and preserve themselves.
I said little at the time, attempting to accept my responsibility for this situation (and because of overblown feelings of guilt). I might add that I received support from kind, thinking people who understood the situation because they were in a position to know the facts.
I am passed by some people without even the trappings of civility, such as "hello" or "how are you?" After 20 years, may I abandon my brief factual answer to the transparent question, "What are you doing now?" Long ago, I concluded this was simply grapevine fare; now I feel that my prescription on forbearance has run out, and I am inclined to say, gently, "Thank you for your interest" and remove myself.
I would like to find some elegant way to ask these people to give it a rest.
GENTLE READER: You may find this a relief, or it may gall you even more, but Miss Manners feels obliged to tell you that after 20 years, most people don't remember exactly why they are cutting you.
She can assure you that the only people to whom the case is still vivid are the ones who were guilty themselves. Others, who went along with the snub originally because the consensus was against you, are now just doing it out of habit.
Do you want to stir them up so that they feel they have to justify themselves? That is what any sort of a reprimand, no matter how elegant, would do. Predisposed to think you bad in some vague way, they would now remember you as the person who embarrassed them.
If you want the ban to end, you must act as if it already had. Miss Manners realizes it will be difficult to make friendly overtures to people who have been snubbing you, but she begs you to try. If you steel yourself to say a friendly hello, and to answer questions about what you are doing as if they were no more than idle conversation -- which, indeed, they may well be -- you will signal to people that the social punishment for whatever it is that happened is over.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A great-uncle, retired and known to be monetarily generous, was invited to his great-niece's bridal shower. She came from out of state for the shower, inviting female guests whom she barely knew or not at all.
The gent attended and, shortly thereafter, the wedding was canceled. To date, about five months later, no presents have been returned.
The "couple" took a trip to Vegas after canceling the wedding. What does Miss Manners think of this disgusting set of affairs?
GENTLE READER: That the gent is never going to get his investment back.
However, Miss Manners prefers to think happy thoughts. She is therefore assuming that the trip was an attempt at reconciliation, and that the presents are being kept pending a decision to marry or to part.