DEAR MISS MANNERS: A "friend" of 25 years informed me over lunch in a restaurant that my husband of 39 years has been having a long-term affair with his assistant. When I politely told her that this was laughable, she really persisted, smirked, shook her head and called me naive. There is absolutely no truth to what she said.
Do friends say things like this to friends? She says she was only trying to protect me. Do you believe this, and should I believe it?
Her husband of 30 years asked for a divorce four years ago, and since then she has been very bitter. She's very lucky to have some friends who took her under their wings and made excuses for her irrational behavior, but she doesn't seem to be moving on and the friends are starting to worry about her.
GENTLE READER: That should cease if your experience was a sample of how she treats her friends.
What was she trying to protect you from? Enjoying a happy marriage? Misery may love company, but the company should not be expected to hang around for such a crude attempt to spread the misery.
Miss Manners hopes that you defended your husband with the outrage that you would expect him to show if a friend of his had accused you of being loose. She trusts that you would not care to have him merely offer a polite contradiction without displaying indignation. You may not want to challenge the offender to a duel, but you can at least say coldly, "I will not allow you to insult my husband like that" and refuse to listen any further.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my elderly mother died, my brother and only sibling was gracious enough to take care of the arrangements, as he still resided within an hour's drive. He e-mailed me the obituary to proof, luckily, as he had my mother's maiden name incorrect.
Putting aside his absentmindedness on this editing particular, I was surprised to see him list a multitude of "survivors." He included his wife, his children and grandchildren who are far too young to know even the existence of a great-grandmother. I suggested to him that our mother was survived by her two sons.
Of course there are always ancillary members to the extended family. However, it seems that a line must be drawn. Imagine the newspaper column inches taken if the deceased was the matriarch of a huge family? My brother was of the opinion that the local custom, in this Midwestern area of the United States, was to include the whole family as survivors. I disagree. What say you?
GENTLE READER: That this is no time for you to be berating your brother. So even if you were not wrong about this matter, you would be wrong.
But Miss Manners has noticed that people who cite etiquette as a means of scolding people under emotional circumstances, such as in connection with weddings and funerals, are likely to misrepresent the etiquette. There is nothing improper either about listing all of the deceased person's direct descendants, or, for that matter, about having produced a large family.