DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a teacher, I am legally required to report abuse, if there is reasonable evidence of it. I was recently at my boyfriend's house when his elderly father, over 80 years old, told of an incident when his son-in-law (call him George) assaulted him. There was no visible injury, but I believed that the assault took place.
I called and reported the incident to Adult Protective Services. Now, George and his wife and daughter are angry with me. However, they will not speak to me directly. They call and harangue my boyfriend.
He defends me, as do his parents. I have been invited to their home for Thanksgiving. George and his wife and daughter will be there as well. Should I stay away until things are calmer? If I attend, should I broach the subject, ignore it, explain the legal requirements of my job, or apologize to mend fences?
I should add that the consequences of the report and subsequent investigation were confidential, so I don't know what the determination was. It is possible that George was found to be innocent.
GENTLE READER: Uh. You don't happen to have an easier question on you, do you? Like who should get the drumstick?
It is not that Miss Manners ducks the hard ones, and come to think of it, the drumstick issue is a hard one if there are 18 people at the table who want one. But she has no more idea than you whether you made a hideous mistake, coming into a household where you might have misinterpreted an exaggeration, a joke, a grudge or a metaphor, or whether you made a heroic rescue and changed dangerous family dynamics.
The people who do know and are still speaking to you are the parents. That they defend you and invite you to Thanksgiving suggests that you may have been right.
You should not ask them to betray the confidentiality of the investigation, but you can assure them that the most important thing to you is that the family have a pleasant Thanksgiving, and that if it would help, you would cheerfully absent yourself and see them on another day. And if they insist that you attend, you could delicately inquire whether you owe George an apology, or whether everything has been forgotten (meaning that the father has forgiven George and reconciled) and that it's all right for you to go, but it's better not to mention the incident.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband has a favorite recliner and forbids anyone else to sit in it, even house guests. I was raised in an old southern family that feels a guest in your home has free reign to sit whereever they would like and to tell them differently is very rude on the part of the host. Please help resolve this dispute.
GENTLE READER: Do you mind if Miss Manners also helps your husband?
Mind you, she agrees about not declaring furniture off-limits. But she is also sure that you agree with her that hosts should do everything they can to ensure their guests' comfort.
Teach him to say, "I'm afraid that chair has problems. I'm fond of it and don't mind, but I think you'll be more comfortable over there."