DEAR MISS MANNERS: What should one do when one finds out that a friend has done something utterly reprehensible? A fairly new friend revealed to me that, several years ago, she attempted to get a man we both know to claim her child as his own. There was no possibility that he was the biological father, but she pretended that he was to many of his friends and business associates. She could have ruined him, both personally and professionally, as he was married to someone else, as was she.
The man in question is a close friend. He has forgiven her; they maintain a correspondence, and she travels to see him a few times a year. I'm shocked enough to want to cut off all contact with her. On the other hand, she confided in me out of trust, thinking that I would be sympathetic.
If she tries to contact me, what do I do? What do I say when our mutual friend, her attempted blackmail target, mentions her in conversation? He has told me that he is happy that we have become friends.
GENTLE READER: And aren't you happy that they have each other? It enables them to exchange all the sympathy they want, leaving you out of their sordid mess.
Miss Manners is afraid that the distribution of ethics in this friendship is even more uneven than you think. Not only does your friend have too few, but you have one too many.
You seem to believe that being asked for sympathy requires you to give it, in disregard of your own morals. You are not obliged to try to reform such people, but neither are you obliged to continue a friendship with someone whom you now know to be capable of sacrificing a presumably intimate friend in the most dishonest and cruel way.
For that matter, why would you want to be friends with someone who is, for whatever reason, countenancing such unforgivable behavior toward himself?
If you distance yourself from them by being unavailable for appointments or for more than an exchange of basic courtesies when you happen to meet, they will probably be able to figure out why. It isn't as though you were reacting to unsubstantiated gossip, as your friend told it to you herself, or as if there could be circumstances under which this behavior might be justified. But if you are asked, the response is that you realized that you had less in common than you had thought.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whatever happened to the receiving line at wedding receptions?
It seems as if the current trend is to "announce" the wedding party as they arrive at the reception. Having stood in a few receiving lines myself, I understand how tedious they can be, but how else does one greet one's guests? If one is a guest at such a wedding, when is the proper time to approach the bridal couple for good wishes, or the parents to thank them for their hospitality?
GENTLE READER: Here is what happened to receiving lines: People who spend fortunes on showy weddings, complete with fancy clothes and decorations, decide that a receiving line is "too formal." What exactly they think is a more formal occasion than a wedding, Miss Manners cannot say.
Instead, they decide, they will just move around the reception, saying hello to everyone there. Only they don't. They get caught up chatting, dancing, eating and being photographed, and leave it to their hapless guests to catch them when they can.