A social nightmare:
You have wronged a friend, perhaps inadvertently, but apparently unforgivably. Apologies were proffered, and may even have been accepted, but things are not the same.
It becomes difficult to reach your friend and impossible to secure a time when he or she is not too busy to see you. Further attempts at explaining are rejected as unnecessary, closing off any chance at obtaining forgiveness, which is not forthcoming.
Compounding the sadness of losing a friend is the misery of knowing that you brought the rift upon yourself. Loneliness and guilt -- those unbeatable modern afflictions, all in one package.
Miss Manners is not without mercy and often pleads on behalf of transgressors. Etiquette doesn't overlook social wrongdoing, but it has a lot of forgiveness built into it -- if for no other reason, to put mercy in the bank in case one might need it oneself.
Yet, here is a worse version of that nightmare:
The avoidance and coldness is identical, but you cannot imagine what you did to deserve it. There must have been something, because a friendship that gave all signs of being mutually satisfying suddenly ceased with no explanation.
So now we have freeform guilt -- the kind that doesn't dwell on one awful incident, but chases around mercilessly through one's past looking for that hidden cause.
Only it may be a bum rap. The transgression could actually have been committed by the person who pre-empted the victim's opportunity to be offended (or, as Miss Manners would prefer to think of it, that person's opportunity to be graciously forgiving) by also doing the cutting.
Miss Manners is not charmed by this implication of self-effacement and remorse. What they are delineating is a plan to neglect the second social duty, namely that of apologizing for omitting the first one.
"But it's too late now," they wail at her.
This is a generally popular excuse. Procrastinators figure if they wait it out, whatever duty they were supposed to perform will be wiped off the record.
But in this particular type of situation, the guilty party figures he has settled the record by administering his own punishment. He has sentenced himself to banishment.
That, too, fails to engage Miss Manners' sympathies. When it is too late for a simple apology, what is required is some full-scale groveling. Far from disappearing, the requirement has accrued additional penalties for being late.
Especially among friends, a good groveler can break down the grovelee in no time. As with consumer complaints, one person carries on about how dreadful this was, and the other person is forced to argue that it's not all that important; the person who goes first gets to choose which role he plays, and the other one has to take the part that is left.
Silence, in contrast, transfers the blame, by default. That is a third social crime, right there.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My granddaughter, whose parents are divorced, is getting married. Her father is a disabled person because of illness.
The mother showed my granddaughter a book stating that if the father has no money to give, he is not entitled to come to the wedding.
We have never heard of this. I have spoken to many people who claim this is the first time they have heard this. Naturally, we are quite upset. Would you please be kind enough to let me know the protocol involved in a situation such as we have?
GENTLE READER: You never heard that fathers have to buy their way into their daughters' weddings, and that pleading illness and poverty is not acceptable?
Miss Manners is afraid that you have been checking for this information in the wrong place. What the bride's mother saw was not an etiquette book. Extortion is not a subdivision of manners.