DEAR MISS MANNERS: The girl who tortured me daily in junior high is my fellow bridesmaid in an upcoming wedding. My co-worker's husband's ex, who sued them in court, will be at the daughter's graduation celebration. Today I will see a man who hacked into my computer at a funeral.
Can you advise us on how to handle ourselves correctly when we are forced to see people we loathe socially?
GENTLE READER: By turning down the social temperature, which is normally set at Warm for such occasions.
But Miss Manners insists that you understand that there is not simply one setting marked Cold. You may loathe them all, but the offenses are different and require different settings.
For the bridesmaid, it is Slightly Cool. Your mouth turns up when you have to say hello to her, but your eyes do not participate in the smile. Then you endeavor to keep at a distance. That should remind her of your grievance, and if she has grown into a different person, she will endeavor to make it up to you.
The ex gets Cold. All the formalities, but no smile. You do not have a personal grievance against him; you are merely treating him as the sort of person you do not want to know.
The hacker (at a funeral -- what was that all about?) deserves Freeze. You do not greet him, you do not acknowledge his presence, and if he approaches you, you turn away.
Mind you, all of this has to be performed without the notice of others. Putting a chill on such occasions is itself a grievance that will have others giving you the cold shoulder.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have just received yet another invitation from my husband's family, ?and this time we are asked to bring "8-10 bottles of Prosecco and of course a festive mood" for Easter Brunch.
This occurs throughout the ?year. At Christmas it was three cases of red wine and one case of white. I am sure you get the picture.
I like to think myself a ?gracious guest and with every other invitation, I confirm my ?attendance and include an offer to bring something. If the hostess declines my offer, I show up with flowers, chocolates or an appropriate small gift.
I even mentioned to a table of female relatives how much I enjoy baking ?and would love to bring the desserts for the next party. However, being told on my invitation to shell out a good $200 for the booze is, I think, horribly rude.
How can I tactfully resolve this problem and still show up with a festive mood while the rest of my husband's family shows up empty handed?
GENTLE READER: Evidently, these are not cooperative dinners, in which relatives or friends agree to contribute. In that case, others would be doing so, and there would have been a who-brings-what discussion in which you could state your preference.
So Miss Manners was about to take off on her dislike of hosts who demand that guests provide refreshments, or, for that matter, guests who demand to do so. This has undermined the hallowed tradition of reciprocal hospitality, whereby hosts do everything for their guests, but also take their turn as guests.
But wait -- do you reciprocate? If you spend all your holidays at your husband's various relatives', is this their way of nudging you to participate?
In any case, your insisting on doing so at the next opportunity, without accepting any help from anyone, is your way off the liquor run. Occasionally providing everything will give you the standing to state your preferences when it is not your turn.