DEAR MISS MANNERS: Does marriage mandate that mail addressed to one be read by the other? I recently discovered that a long-term platonic correspondence I had been having with a man was made available to his wife, without my knowledge or permission. It has destroyed not only the trust but the contact, which had been a treasured one.
Am I incorrect in believing that letters sealed in envelopes are far different from e-mails? That they are, in a way, sacred, and meant solely for the eyes of the addressee? This is a source of sorrow and, indeed, betrayal to me.
GENTLE READER: Resisting the temptation to inquire what was in those letters is such a mighty effort that you will have to allow Miss Manners a moment to recover.
Marriage is no excuse for opening other people's mail, or even for insisting that it be shown. However, it is an excuse for blabbing. Wait -- make that sharing. It is never safe to assume that something sent or told to one spouse will be kept secret from the other.
If the wife opened your letters, the gentleman has a marital problem. If he merely felt like showing them to her, he may just have a good marriage.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have found myself wishing that we could go back to the 18th century rituals of grieving where we can wear black and people are cautious about approaching the mourner. Today is my birthday and my first wedding anniversary. However, two weeks ago to the date, my mother passed away suddenly. My family and I are still in shock for the most part and grieving.
My goal was to just quietly get through my birthday and have a quiet celebration for my anniversary with just my husband. I had thought about sharing my wishes with my friends but thought it would be rude to bring up my wishes for my birthday/anniversary.
As I was accosted this morning by celebratory well wishers, I was wishing I had been rude. Instead, I politely stated that although I appreciate their thoughts, this is a difficult time for me and that my husband and I have chosen not to celebrate at this time. I then get all the lectures about how it is still my birthday no matter what has happened and I should be celebrating.
I now have some people mad at me because I just can't get into the celebratory spirit. How should I have handled this situation to suit me and the happy well wishers?
GENTLE READER: If we were going to turn back the calendar, Miss Manners would like to go back to the days before amateur therapy was thrust on the unwary. It has been the excuse for much callousness preposterously posing as compassion.
Most, but not all, of the trappings of formal mourning are gone. If you wear only black, some people may back off (although others may assume you are going to a wedding). What you can certainly do is to say firmly, "I'm sorry and I appreciate your intentions, but I am in mourning. It will be a while before I can enjoy parties again."