DEAR MISS MANNERS: Three years ago, I received an alarming and hurtful email from a friend of my mother's, blatantly stating her poor opinion of me. I do not have a good relationship with my mother, through whom this woman clearly gained her unfavorable view of me. I have never addressed the email, and simply avoided this friend of my mother's.
A week ago, I was married, having a small wedding with close family and friends. I did not invite the above-mentioned friend of my mother's, but nonetheless received a congratulatory card with cash, along with an apology letter from her.
I'm a bit put off that she would bother to send me anything, not the least an apology letter for me to receive upon my wedding three years after the insult. Is it good manners to respond to such unwelcome congratulations, and if so, must I address the apology?
I do not have any ill feelings toward her, but I do not have any friendly feelings either. I'm confused as to why she feels the need to ever contact me. I view the whole ordeal as rather bothersome and simply don't wish to be involved with her further.
GENTLE READER: Not wanting to spend more time on the matter is understandable, but if that is truly your goal, then you are going to have to spend a little more time now to avoid spending a great deal of time later.
Allow Miss Manners to demonstrate:
Option 1: Ignore the letter completely. Besides the rudeness of your doing so, your mother's friend, who is trying to check things off her "to do" list -- as well as assuage a guilty conscience -- will now have justification for putting you in the wrong when she reached out. She will complain to your mother, who will feel compelled to defend her friend -- and will have further evidence of your unreasonableness, irresponsibility, inhumanity -- take your pick. You will now have two women tormenting you instead of one.
Option 2: Send the cash back either with or without an angry note. The result will be roughly the same.
You have already considered, and dismissed, option 3 -- which is writing a thank-you note -- presumably on the theory that one letter will lead to more. But that need not be the case. A brief thank-you note assuring her that you had long since forgotten the incident and appreciate her gift and her warm regards is the quickest way out. The tone should be strictly neutral -- not overly friendly but also not unfriendly. This solution has the added benefit that it will flummox your mother. Assuming the cash is modest, you may return it if you wish. Returning gifts is generally an insult, and you don't want to start that again.