DEAR MISS MANNERS: A few months ago, my partner of some years and I decided to end our relationship. The decision was cordial and mutual and there remains a bond of history and of love between us. The immediate cause of the breakup, however, was a relationship he had developed and concealed over the past year.
I am not 12 years old and I have read novels, so I am aware that this has happened before. Nonetheless, I decided to take the high road (as there was no one else there competing for space) and tell people that our split was cordial and mutual. Only when asked did I mention where X had moved and say, with a practiced poker face, who he was living with. If asked "And are they friends, or ... " I always simply say, "You'll have to ask X about that."
So far, so good. But what about the several times when someone asked directly "And are you sure that they are just friends?" (Believe me, it is the couple's behavior over the last six months that prompted those questions.)
Is "You'll have to ask X about that" still the preferred response, and, if so, was I really awful in saying (again with a poker face), "I think you would get different answers from X and me to that question"?
GENTLE READER: Stop! You're looking in the wrong direction. That way will take you off the high road. And you were marching along it so proudly.
You have not yet fallen into the mud, Miss Manners acknowledges. But watch out. Your proposed statement is a road sign pointing your questioners toward the low road, and hinting that you can be enticed to guide them there.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm talking long distance on the phone when the doorbell rings, and when I answer the door, I have someone standing expectantly in front of me, but I'm unable to verbally greet them.
The person on the phone finds it rude that I'm cutting them off and the person at the door is uncomfortable because I'm making funny hand motions and faces. I just don't know how to deal with it in a generous fashion.
Should I answer the door and try to gracefully get off the phone, or should I continue my phone conversation and ignore the doorbell? To compound my problem, what if the person at the door knows perfectly well that I'm home (since they just saw me drive in the garage)? Or what if the person on the phone is my great-grandmother, whom I haven't talked to in three months? Help me!
GENTLE READER: Not if you refuse to make funny faces. Miss Manners considers the ability to look regretful with the eyes, smile with the mouth and shrug with the shoulders, all at once, to be one of etiquette's great skills.
At the table, it says, "I want to answer you, but my mouth is full." In the theater, it says, "I can't hear while you're unwrapping your candy, but I'm making myself believe that you don't realize what a nuisance you are." And at the door, it says, "I'd like to greet you, but I can't until I get off the telephone."