DEAR MISS MANNERS: My problem is not one of mistaken identity, but rather one of accidentally revealed identity!
I am a regular participant in an active online discussion group, and while heated debates over politics and religion are the norm there, we usually manage to keep things civil.
One prolific participant is a sort of self-appointed expert on many things, and makes quite a thing of the fact that she has two bachelors degrees and reads a lot. She goes to great pains to try to make people see her as smart and interesting.
As a result, she is one of the people most likely to end up embroiled in a personal argument, and has revealed a lot about her off-line life. She recently posted a link to something with her real full name on it, and it turns out that this is someone I have known, or at least known about, in the past. She is a former friend of a friend, who was known, years ago, to have stirred up quite a bit of controversy, told a lot of damaging lies about someone and generally hurt a lot of people.
It also appears that she has told some blatant lies about herself and her past in our online forum.
I'm trying to decide how to proceed with her, and with the rest of the group. Would it be wrong of me to continue to participate in discussions with her without revealing that I know who she is? Do I have any responsibility to point out to the rest of the group the posts where she's lied about her life? I have no idea what etiquette dictates in a situation like this.
GENTLE READER: Excuse Miss Manners for being naive, but don't we assume that most self-sketches on anonymous groups are at least embroidered, if not outright fantasy? Surely the question is whether you should reveal her identity, not whether you can keep participating without doing so.
Where anonymity is presumed, even by the careless, you should not spread her name. Where is the clear and present danger from which you would be protecting the other participants? It isn't as though you had discovered that your friend's fiance was wanted for the murder of his first three wives.
You do note that this person is being contentious with the other participants. But that is one nice thing about unpleasant people -- they can be counted upon to identify themselves as such. She sounds well on her way to alienating the others without your assistance.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Will you please give me some rules of etiquette for people staying at someone's home for periods of three days or LONGER?
GENTLE READER: Does your putting LONGER in capital letters mean you want Miss Manners to tell them to GO HOME? If you did not take the precaution of setting the date in advance, you should start thanking them for coming.
Getting them to pitch in may be harder, except for the kind of guests who take over when you don't want them to. They should be cleaning up after themselves, inviting you out to dinner, falling in with your plans yet leaving you free time by making plans of their own, volunteering for specific tasks but asking you how you would like them done, being good company, using their own telephones and pretending not to hear anything they shouldn't.