DEAR MISS MANNERS: Just when one is delighting in the flexibility that modern life offers, one comes smack up against a range of situations to which flexible, modern etiquette seems to have no answers. I am at an etiquette dead-end and see no way of avoiding hurt to people I care for. The choice seems to be only in who will be hurt.
I had a partner for a number of years and we parted, on officially cordial terms, last year when he moved in with the married man he had been seeing for some months. I have worked assiduously to maintain relationships with my former partner's family, whom I had grown quite close to, and the desire for continued contact with them is mutual.
Now, my dear and wonderful daughter will be married later this year and, while I would very much like to share the occasion with my former in-laws, it seems churlish and pointedly mean to invite them and not their son, my former partner; yet you can easily understand that I will not invite him and his (still-married) boyfriend. While nothing could ruin the joy of that occasion, having them there would come close.
It would strain anything that could be labeled an honest relationship with my former in-laws not to mention that my daughter is getting married, yet I can hardly talk happily about the occasion and not include people whose lives I've shared for many years.
Should I just say, "Look, this is so awkward, but I can't invite you and not X, and I'm not comfortable inviting X and Y. I hope you can understand." Is there a way to avoid this train-wreck?
GENTLE READER: You could omit them all, but you cannot tell Miss Manners that this train-wreck -- uh, problem -- is a new one. Weddings are constantly bringing together people's exes and their subsequent mates, and the rule is to endure it politely. There is one special circumstance here, however, and Miss Manners is afraid you are going to love it:
Married people must be invited as couples, so you could invite your former partner's new partner with his wife.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I go into the kitchen at work, I often find the microwave idle but containing someone else's lunch. People tend to forget about their lunches, or are unavoidably detained, and do not return for quite some time.
I am in the habit of just removing the container and setting it aside so that I may use the microwave for myself. I am careful not to stick my fingers in the food or spill anything.
On one occasion, I overheard a co-worker tell another, "Hey, somebody moved your lunch!" I didn't say anything, seeing nothing wrong with what I had done.
Who is at fault here, the person who selfishly monopolizes the microwave during the lunch hour, or the person who selfishly shoves the offending entree aside?
GENTLE READER: Ah, the great laundry room problem, moved to the office kitchen. Miss Manners is grateful that you didn't dump the offending meal on the floor, as apartment dwellers sometimes do with their neighbors' underwear, in order to use the machines.
Never mind fault, as there needn't be any here. And the remedy -- the food's owner reheating it when he returns -- is right there.