DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have an acquaintance whose response to other people’s good news is almost always a fervent, and loud, “I’m so jealous!” This might be in response to forthcoming vacation plans, a delicious dinner out or a restorative nap.
I’m sure that she doesn’t realize how unpleasant it is to be told that my enjoyment has caused her emotional distress. I’ve taken to avoiding conversations with her because I am not sure how to respond to this statement, and would rather not avoid all mention of any aspect of my life that might serve to inspire it.
I have often thought of answering her “I’m so jealous!” exclamation with a light-hearted “Oh, dear, I had hoped you might be happy for me! I am so sorry to have caused you distress!” but am not sure if this would be considered appropriate, or exactly which facial expression would best convey my meaning. I worry that others are also put off by what seems to be a habitual response and is, no doubt, meant to charm, not dismay.
GENTLE READER: Actually, Miss Manners finds your response to be perfect. The accompanying facial expression (eyebrows together, mouth turned down) should demonstrate that is equal parts hurt and confusion. With any luck, that will be the last time that you will have to indulge her.