DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am divorcing my husband due to his emotional abuse. Members of his large family have all immediately ceased contact with me. I understand this is typical, but we were close for over a decade, and their complete ostracism of me has been painful.
I wonder how best to react, should we run into one another accidentally in the future. Knowing them, I would anticipate they would be friendly and will pretend goodwill, and will say things like, “We should have lunch!” -- when, of course, they don’t mean it for a second. I, of course, will be polite and smile, but the thought of such a scenario sickens me.
What are good manners for dealing with people who pretend to be positive toward you, but have actually hurt you deeply? They will expect a smile from me, and pleasure to see them, but it will truly be a painful moment for me.
GENTLE READER: Would you feel better if they said something cutting to you? Or cut you dead?
Sincerity is not always the most bearable approach in an emotionally difficult situation. Miss Manners agrees that it would be preferable to omit the luncheon suggestion if there is no such intention, even though that expression has become a conventional way of conveying goodwill without commitment.
But although the manners you describe may be insincere, surely they are preferable to the possible sincere manners between estranged people who may harbor thoughts that are best not aired.