DEAR MISS MANNERS: Do you think that it is appropriate for an ex-wife to show up at family gathering when the present wife is in attendance? For example, Thanksgiving, funerals, Christmas and family gatherings, and it is not that she corresponds with the family during the year.
I think her children should be there but not her. Ex means no more. Do you think the present wife should go there knowing that the first wife will be present? It is a very uncomfortable situation.
GENTLE READER: Yes, it must be terribly uncomfortable for the relatives, who are only hoping to have a pleasant holiday or dignified ceremony without enduring the fallout of a past divorce. And it must be even worse for the children to witness their stepmother trying to banish their mother.
Miss Manners is sorry to have to point out that the lady in question is still related to the family -- not through your husband, but through her children. If she is invited to family occasions, you will simply have to treat her with the courtesy that you show any other member of the family of whom you are not especially fond.
You can, of course, choose to boycott family occasions. That, too, would cause discomfort to the children and their father, but perhaps not to the other relatives.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a graduate student, and my roommate is constantly ragging on me for how much diet soda I drink (that's two cans, maybe three, a day), telling other people that I drink "so much" diet soda; how the chemicals are sure to cause cancer, destroy my teeth, how much it must cost, how she discussed it with another friend and he thought this and that, etc. I think she might think she's being funny, or maybe she's just being self-righteous.
I usually respond with a calm and not amused explanation that I really don't drink an unhealthy amount, don't drink alcohol or coffee, have not found any supportable evidence of health risk, and that my doctor and dentist think it's perfectly fine. It still won't make her stop. How do I politely tell her to mind her own business?
GENTLE READER: There is no polite way to say, "Mind your own business." Fortunately there are polite ways for people who live together on more or less peaceful terms to say, "You're driving me crazy."
Domestic arrangements are bearable only if people grant each other an occasional free pass to say, "I know you're only teasing, but it bothers me" or "I'm afraid it's time to retire that joke." If such pleas have the effect of encouraging your roommate to redouble her efforts, Miss Manners is afraid that it is time to look for other quarters.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been busy organizing 15-plus years of photographs. What should I do with the wedding pictures of friends who are divorced? My thought was to file them away in my letterbox with the invitation instead of having them in a photo album. Do you have general rules for photographs?
GENTLE READER: Only one: Keep them away from people whom they might embarrass.