DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am married to a wonderful man who has two children from a previous marriage. I am very fond of my stepchildren, although I have noticed that their training in etiquette has been somewhat lacking. Their father is very polite, but unfortunately, their mother is not, and her behavior often sets the tone.
When my husband and I attend an event where his ex-wife is also present, she ignores us, and will go so far as to call my husband on his cell phone and ask him to go elsewhere to talk to her if there is something she needs to say rather than come anywhere near us. She behaves similarly when I am not present, and encourages the children to ignore us, too, despite the fact that my husband has equal custody and raises the children half of the time.
We are currently preparing for a bar mitzvah for one of the children. I am looking forward to the event with a mix of pleasure and dread, since I anticipate being treated rudely. My husband feels that we should just treat her as she is treating us, but I feel that for the sake of the guests and the children, that I should make an effort to be cordial. I try to say hello when she ventures close enough to speak to, but I sense that I am annoying her.
Do you have any suggestions, or should I behave as rudely to her as she is behaving toward me?
GENTLE READER: And wouldn't that be a treat for your stepson and the bar mitzvah guests?
Instead of celebrating, the grown-up guests would be murmuring that your husband seems to have married the same person twice; the teenaged guests would be looking for a way to escape, and your stepchildren -- well, let us say that they would not exactly be cheering you on.
Considering that the former wife avoids you, it should not require much effort to be civil. You need only greet her, not pausing to expect a reply, and advise your husband that a cellular telephone should never be taken to a ceremony or party.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A few months ago, I donated a sum of money to a performing arts organization, for which I received a letter of thanks. When the group posted on its Web site a list of their patrons for the year, I was disappointed not to see my name included. Should I inform the group of this omission, or just let it go? If I do tell them, what would be the most polite way to do so?
GENTLE READER: There is nothing impolite about asking in a straightforward way why your name was not included. Miss Manners only hopes you get a polite answer.
That would be "Oh, we're terribly sorry, we deeply appreciate your contribution and we'll get your name there right away." But fund-raisers often prefer shaming people to thanking them, and you might be told that a "patron" gives more money than you did, and you should fork over more if you want to be recognized.