DEAR MISS MANNERS: Until a few days ago I was having a romance with a celebrity. We kept quiet about it to avoid the tabloids.
A couple of months ago, a slight acquaintance who I have never liked overheard him say to me, "I'll see you tomorrow." She demanded that I take her along on our meeting, and begged me to make similar outings with her.
I refused, politely but persistently. When pressed for a reason, I said, "We're 'friends,'" putting as much emphasis on the word "friends" as possible. A toadstool would have realized that I wanted to be alone with this man for personal reasons, but she did not. She kept badgering me to include her in my dates with the celebrity.
A few days ago, she frankly asked him for a date, right in front of me. To my chagrin, he accepted. Later, in private, he and I had a fight about the incident -- end of romance.
Obviously, if he was so quick to make a date with another woman he was ready to break up with me anyway. Still, I think the little groupie should face some consequences for taking my man before I was done with him. I intend to give her the snubbing of her life. How can I make her shrivel with guilt and regret, while being utterly charming?
GENTLE READER: Oddly -- and irritatingly -- enough, this is done by not snubbing her. Doing so would only convince her that she succeeded in snatching a prize away from you.
But, as you realize, she did you a favor. The way to engender her regret is to thank her for getting you out of a difficult and tedious situation.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently received an anonymous letter in my mailbox saying that we are disturbing the peace of the neighborhood.
We just moved here, and were surprised to find that we could hear all of our neighbors so clearly. This is due to the fact that everyone lives with their windows open in the heat. I can literally hear my neighbor sneeze when I lay in my bed at night. We were even thinking of moving because of the noise level.
So I was shocked when I received the note, but I admit that my 2-year-old is having a hard time dealing with his new baby brother and has been crying a lot lately. Otherwise, I really feel that we are on par with the rest of our neighbors. The note sounded rather angry, and said that they can hear our conversations and that our children keep them from sleeping in on the weekends.
I feel bad that I am annoying someone, but am disturbed and paranoid because I don't know who wrote the note. I would like to apologize to them and make sure that they understand that we aren't trashy or rude people. Do I write an apology to all of our neighbors (especially since I can't keep my kids quiet all of the time), or just let it go?
GENTLE READER: Just let it go until an already enraged neighbor is driven over the brink? Miss Manners would not advise this.
Although anonymous letters are rude and scary, she recommends treating this one as an opening for discussing the problem that everyone in the neighborhood shares, with a view to cooperating to make life more pleasant for all.
Whether this can be accomplished through a policy of strategically closed windows Miss Manners cannot say. People do converse, and children do cry. But it will establish your goodwill, which tends to make others more tolerant.
Besides, if you refer uncritically to having received an anonymous letter, you may be sure that people who know everyone in the neighborhood will have a good idea who the writer is, and that it will not be attempted again.