DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I met my husband, 25 years ago, we worked together in a restaurant. I went on to college to become highly educated with a master's degree and am presently working on my doctorate. I'm presently an educator, respected by my colleagues, and admired by my family and friends, none of whom have advanced as far as I have or ever will.
My husband (I'll call him D), on the other hand, has the exact same job he did when I met him -- he's a fry cook, a job held almost exclusively by teens, dropouts and ex-cons. D has refused to go back to school or even attempt a professional career, claiming that it's just too late to start over.
D, knowing that he will never be my intellectual equal, has gone to great lengths to try and appear incredibly important by 1) referring to himself as a chef (he isn't), 2) keeping in constant view his beeper, cell phone and fax machine, 3) insisting on buying a new car every few years, 4) passing out his business cards, etc. All the while, he insists, "I must stay in touch with my people 24-7." His constant efforts to show how important he is have made him a laughing stock, and I can no longer take the embarrassment.
Do you or your readers have any suggestions as to how to deal with a husband who I feel is constantly dragging me down? I didn't go to college for 10 years to be on the arm of someone that always reeks of fish and onions.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners suggests that you end the embarrassment by associating only with people at your own level. There are a great many cold-hearted snobs from among whom you can choose, and it will spare your husband, other relatives and friends the embarrassment you must be causing them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is a U.S. Marine deployed in Iraq for seven months now. We just got word that he might be returning by the end of this month.
When I shared the good news with some friends and family, there were a few thoughtless people who reacted by saying, "Already?" or "Has it been seven months?" Or they would make comparisons to longer deployments by the Army.
As a wife, seven months of my life praying, waiting, my heart leaping in my throat at another report of casualty, are long enough! How would I retort to these thoughtless comments so that the people would know they have been insensitive without being offensive?
GENTLE READER: Your object, Miss Manners gathers and hopes, is not to hurt these people in retaliation, but to make them recognize their thoughtlessness and retreat from it. In that case, what you need is not a retort but a gentle way of showing the effect of their words.
"I suppose I can't expect anyone to understand," you could say, "because some people don't know what it's like and others have endured worse. But these months have seemed very long to me and hard to bear, and I'll be grateful when they're over."