DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m 62 and have been divorced for 26 years. I’ve been dating the love of my life for 15 years -- obviously not in a hurry to tie the knot, though I gave her a beautiful engagement ring over the summer.
A couple of times in conversations with other people while my fiancee is present, I have told an amusing story (different each time) that involved my ex-wife or a past girlfriend. My fiancee later tells me that that was rude and it offended her.
I have since been quite careful never to go there. Until yesterday.
While we were eating at the bar of a casual restaurant, I struck up a conversation with the couple next to me. The gentleman stated he was from a neighborhood I was familiar with. I then proceeded to tell him that 22 years ago, I played a humorous prank on my child on the way over to my then-girlfriend’s house in that same neighborhood (it involved the geography of that neighborhood). I’m a social drinker and was having fun making the couple laugh.
Needless to say, I caught heck on the drive home for mentioning an ex-girlfriend. I told her she was being childish and that it’s history -- adding, however, that because it offends her, it’ll never happen again. In my head, I’ll just have to think really hard and use generic terms like “friend.” I’ve just never had to analyze anything before I say it. I’m not purposely being rude.
Is she oversensitive? I told her even if, in your opinion, she’s wrong, I will still never go there.
GENTLE READER: The only relevant rule here is: Don’t annoy your fiancee. Not that Miss Manners fails to understand what a pleasure it would be to tell the lady that she is wrong, but that you are humoring her anyway.
Can you imagine how complicated it would be to have a rule about whom one can and cannot mention from one’s past? (Still, and between us, Miss Manners does think it odd for people in midlife to pretend they had no pasts, even benign ones.)