DEAR MISS MANNERS: My niece, married for several years and with two children (one newborn), discovered that her husband is a serial cheater. He travels on business weekly and routinely uses the Internet to set up liaisons in destination cities. She's heartbroken, confused and unsure of her next move.
How do I handle the next meeting with this scoundrel, which is likely to be a family gathering in my sister's home? I know I can't kill or even seriously wound him, but neither can I be the hail-fellow-well-met uncle of the past.
Should I greet him with a flat "Hello" and move away, leaving no doubt that I want no further conversation? Must I shake hands, which I would rather not do? I don't want to embarrass my sister or my niece, but I can't pretend that I'm glad to see the husband or even want to be in the same room with him even though we were formerly very friendly and have shared many happy times.
GENTLE READER: Shunning scoundrels is one of society's duties, sadly neglected by those who refuse to pass judgment, as well as by those who may have discovered that scoundrels sometimes make lively companions. Miss Manners is glad to see that you are ready to do your part.
As you have noticed, it is a complicated part. However, as much as you may want to protect society in general from cads, it is your niece in particular whose betrayal arouses your indignation. And she -- understandably, especially with a newborn baby -- has not yet decided what she will do.
She may reconcile with him, in which case cutting him off will cut you off from her. Even if she divorces him, she is likely to maintain some sort of relationship in regard to their children, and this may occasion your meeting him in her house or your sister's. You are therefore not free to administer the worst snub, which is to refuse to shake his hand, hold any conversation with him, or, indeed, recognize that he exists.
The social temperature you want to maintain until you know what will happen is not freezing, but cool. A flat hello and turning away is fine, and if you turn away fast enough you may be able to avoid shaking hands. In the case of a divorce you can lower the temperature to cold, which precludes anything but a curt nod, but if there is a reconciliation you can turn it up to lukewarm, adding short, neutral conversations.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know that sending thank-you cards is only appropriate when the gift giver has had to send a gift via the Postal Service or another party attendee. However, is it necessary to send a thank-you card if you have attended the event and have already thanked the giver countless times personally?
I received one and feel very offended by this action.
I know the receiver was grateful and that is enough for me. I feel that the thank-you sender did not send the card for the sake of etiquette but as a reminder that I should do the same, and I am deeply offended.
GENTLE READER: We live in a rude world. If the worst cause you can find to be offended about is that you received written thanks from someone to whom you gave a present, Miss Manners hopes you are grateful for your blessings.