DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I have two sons and five grandchildren. We will have our 50th wedding anniversary this year. Do we plan our 50th party or do our children plan a party? Is it supposed to be (if they plan it) a surprise party? As of today, not one word has been mentioned about it. My wife and I have talked about it, and have decided we would not say anything about this being our 50th year. Wait and see if they think of it.
What should we do? Remind them? Plan it ourselves? Or just the two of us (if we don't hear anything) take a cruise by ourselves and say nothing to anybody?
GENTLE READER: And there you will be, lounging in your deck chairs, gazing at the sparkling water, perhaps reaching over to take each other's hands, and reflecting on the years you have shared and the betrayal of your children and grandchildren.
Mind you, Miss Manners would not consider it a betrayal. As charming as it may be to throw parents an anniversary party, it is not an absolute duty. There could be reasons besides forgetfulness or callousness for their not doing so -- practical reasons or even the mistaken belief that this is not what you would most enjoy.
If there is one thing you should have learned in 50 years of marriage, it is not to set up secret tests for those you love. You only succeed in bewildering and embittering them when they unknowingly fail and you go into a funk.
If you and your wife would like to have a party, throw a party. If you want to go on a cruise, do so. But whatever you do, tell your children. You can even say, "We're giving ourselves a party, and it would be wonderful if you could come, and maybe co-host it with us if you'd like."
It would not be a tragedy if they then complained that you've spoiled their surprise. If they say that in spite of not having yet thought about your anniversary, Miss Manners will congratulate you on having bright children.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to greet a former lover, when the reason he is "former" is because he dropped me for someone new? We will run into each other again, most likely in front of mutual friends who will undoubtedly be watching for any actions on my part as the spurned lover.
GENTLE READER: Is Miss Manners correct in thinking that you would like to disappoint them? Then she can offer you a tremendous incentive for being gracious, even effusive toward both the former and the someone new.
It is that onlookers will conclude that if you did not actually dump him, you were at least relieved to have someone take him off your hands, and can't help feeling grateful to them both for your release. However, if you are snippy, they will all think, "Poor thing, she is still bitter." Which impression would you rather leave?