DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a "modern age" dilemma that I am really baffled how to deal with. I have joined an online dating site and simply don't know how to respond to the many married men who write to me.
A simple "I'm not interested" seems a bit meek, considering they are asking me to commit adultery and thereby harm two women (me and the wife) and usually a number of children as well in the process.
What would be a dignified and yet effective way to communicate the inappropriateness of this request? Right now I generally express the wish that the wife slaps him, throws him out of the house, and takes all of his money in a divorce settlement -- which I fear may not be quite the most enlightened way to deal with this situation!
GENTLE READER: Before you go to pieces over this, allow Miss Manners to explain a fact of life:
When you put out a notice to strangers that you are available for romance, you should not be surprised to attract some who do not share your idea of acceptable romance. For that matter, your remark about adultery assumes that any such contact would involve instant intimacy, a definition of romance that more fastidious people might find unacceptable.
In any case, a lady does not respond to an indecent proposal. Doing so only suggests that she is willing to negotiate.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I wanted to throw a party for my mother-in-law's 50 birthday. We simply did not have the room in our small apartment to host the party, so I suggested to my husband that we host it at a local restaurant.
He reminded me, and I agreed, that we did not have the money to pay the bill for all the guests. We could not decide whether or not it was rude to kindly ask guests to bring a gag gift and enough money to cover their individual meal.
My husband's solution was to ask his sister if she had anything planned. She replied by saying that she was going to arrange for a couple of her mother's friends to take her out. It never happened. We tried making up for the lack of a party by bringing her a nice bottle of alcohol. Should we have gone with our original idea?
GENTLE READER: Well, no, since your original idea was to give a party you couldn't afford. But Miss Manners wonders why that calculation always seems to be followed by the notion of getting others to pay the bills for your supposed hospitality. Why wasn't your next thought, "What can we afford to do?"
Well, eventually this did occur to you, but only after other plans fell through, and in a way that fell far short of your hopes. Perhaps if you had addressed the question earlier, you could have come up with something more festive, such as taking your mother and her friends out to tea, or inviting only her very closest friends to your house.