DEAR MISS MANNERS: An unfortunate incident occurred last year between me and a fellow graduate student in my department, and I am still at a loss as to how to resolve it.
I was good friends with this gentleman, who apparently misinterpreted our friendship. I had repeatedly expressed my delight that my boyfriend was moving down to live with me; however, he believed that a romantic situation would develop and was upset and disappointed when my boyfriend actually arrived.
The trouble is that he aired his disappointment to most, if not all, of our fellow grad students, claiming that I had "led him on" and lied to him. I don't believe there was anything in my behavior or conversations with him that could have been interpreted as a romantic signal.
The members of my department are not only friends but professional colleagues, nor can I imagine, given his lack of discretion, that the professors remained in the dark.
I didn't want to turn my private life into an object of debate or he-said-she-said, nor did I want people to feel that they had to choose sides. So I simply ignored the whole situation in public, refusing to discuss it with all but a few close friends, on the assumption that it would blow over.
Almost a year later, I am wondering if this was the correct decision. I sometimes feel that some of my fellows are cold or distant to me (it may be my imagination), and I wonder if it's because they've heard this story and believed it.
I am on polite but very distant speaking terms with the young man, but the fact is that I loathe him for telling these stories about me and yet will have to interact with him in classes, departmental events, etc., for many years to come.
Is there any way to resolve the situation with other members of the department after so much time has passed -- i.e., to indicate, without appearing petty (and ideally without going into details), that I did not behave inappropriately? And how does one treat a person one truly (and justly) dislikes but cannot avoid?
GENTLE READER: You are still brooding about this a year later?
Bringing it up now will go a long way toward convincing your colleagues that you have a guilty conscience and giving the disappointed suitor renewed hopes.
You did the dignified thing at the time. Now let it go and behave with professional cordiality toward the perpetrator, who may have long since moved on.
Everyone else has. Unsatisfactory romance is such a commonplace thing at universities, simply because of the number of young single people around, that the non-starter story you relate would be eminently forgettable.
Besides, you undoubtedly announced your real beau's arrival to them at the time. Someone who spewed bitterness about a failed courtship attempt only made himself look unattractive and pathetic.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are in disagreement about showing purchases in malls. He thinks it's fine for me to take them out and show them to him, I do not. Miss Manners, what is your opinion?
GENTLE READER: Uh, what did you purchase?