DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the right thing to say when someone insults your intelligence by telling you something which is obviously not true?
For example, my girlfriend left a letter under the door of my room saying she is going to her parents' house because her mother "wants to talk to her about something." My handyman told me that that when she left she was wearing a sexy top, and she never does that when she goes to meet her parents.
Her parents live a couple hours away, in another city. She does not own a car, so it's improbable that she would have made it to work the following morning, yet when I stopped by her office, her boss said she went out to lunch.
Also, she just started her job, and I am still supporting her until her first paycheck at the end of the month. I know she did not have money for the trip. So when she gives me some excuse, I feel bad, because it seems she is underestimating my intelligence.
Is there a snappy answer that would demonstrate to her that I am no fool? We have an open relationship, it's not that I am jealous, but I don't want to be lied to so blatantly. I cannot dump her at the moment because she is pregnant, and my family would like me to take part in raising the child.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners will not insult your intelligence by claiming that this problem is solvable. An expectant mother who violates the terms of an arrangement already open to heaven-knows-what is not going to be reformed by a quip.
Nor will we argue about whether your bad feeling stems from the presumed deed or the use of subterfuge to accomplish it; fortunately, that is out of Miss Manners' purview. The etiquette question is whether you can insult the perpetrator so as to shame her but not alienate her.
Probably not. Nobody is willing to suffer being called a liar -- least of all liars. The indignation they are able to bring to such accusations is stunning.
You could unnerve her by throwing out small indications that you have discovered contradictions in her story without stating any conclusions -- "Funny, your mother called here" or "I would have been glad to drive you" -- stated without rancor or probing.
Who knows, this may even lead to indications that you were mistaken about her deception. Or at least it will encourage her to lie to you less blatantly, which is all you claim to want.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I gave a New Year's Eve party last year and invited 12 of our close friends. The evening included a formal dinner, followed by dancing and champagne at midnight.
One of our friends has taken us to task because we chose to split the couples up when arranging the place cards at the table. This person maintains that separating couples is "inappropriate" for a New Year's Eve dinner. Is she correct?
GENTLE READER: We let couples kiss each other at midnight, for heaven's sake. Isn't that enough of a concession? They want to talk to each other at dinner, too?
Even on New Year's Eve, couples who go to parties should be prepared to socialize with the other guests. Those who only want to concentrate on each other should certainly do so, but at home or among strangers. A dinner party is a social event, not a free place to go for a private date.