DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper ?way to decline a gentleman's marriage proposal, when the original answer ?was a request for time to think it over?
I would like to know what is now ?the correct way to raise the issue, and the best way to deliver the ?answer. Also, I would like to know if the lady should expect that the ?relationship with the gentleman will automatically be dissolved.
The lady ?in question would prefer the relationship to continue as it was before the ?marriage proposal, but she realizes this may be an unreasonable hope.
GENTLE READER: And it would give the gentleman unreasonable hope. Besides, that hangdog attitude that says "Are you growing to love me?" is not conducive to friendship.
Miss Manners is not saying that the lady and gentleman might not eventually become genuine friends, once their respective romantic interests are directed elsewhere. But it is only fair to the disappointed gentleman to allow that to happen by dashing his present hopes definitively.
The traditional opening is, "I am highly honored by your proposal, and have given it serious thought." The gentleman will then know that he is doomed, and you need only add that you must decline and that -- another sign of doom -- you hold him in the highest esteem.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner and I have been together, and very happily so, for over a decade. He is completely welcome in my family (and was a pall-bearer at my mother's funeral) and while the same is true on one side of his family, it is not the case on the other side, which I have basically never even met.
I don't know whether there is a connection, but a domineering grandparent on that side of the family died this year and now -- lo and behold -- I have been invited to a family party.
It seems needlessly petty to refuse to go, and yet I can't help feeling like a jack-in-the-box. How do I handle this graciously? If I am asked by cousins why we have never met, may I say, "Because I have never been invited before" or must I try and finesse that in some way?
Note that I am not projecting the uncontestable lack of welcome onto all the relatives. I want to be a good guest, but 12 years of being ignored simply can't be dismissed as casually as an inadvertently spilled glass of wine. If it is relevant, I will mention that I have only two eyes and I do bathe every day.
GENTLE READER: Now, now. Do you really want them to be reluctant to invite you to the next party purely on the grounds that you are unpleasantly bristly?
Miss Manners doubts that you will be asked the question you anticipate. Do you imagine that the family hasn't been talking the situation over for all those years? Or that your partner has never complained about your omission?
But if you should be asked, a reply that would make your point and yet satisfy Miss Manners as being polite would be a bewildered (rather than sarcastic), "I really don't know -- Kurt and I have been together for more than a decade."