Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Try Taking Mean-spirited ‘Joke’ Seriously

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister-in-law of 40+ years, who I thought liked me, stated that she hates Democrats, knowing I am one. I jokingly replied, with a smile, “Hey! I’m a Democrat.”

She responded that the area she lives in is Republican and doesn’t work well with Democrats. I was taken aback. Am I too sensitive? Do I bring it up to her?

GENTLE READER: The way to deal with a mean remark that someone is trying to pass off as a joke is to take it seriously:

“You HATE me? Really? I know we have different politics, but I’ve always been so fond of you! This comes as a terrible shock!”

This leaves her with having to say, “Of course I didn’t mean you,” to which you can reply, “But I’m a Democrat, and you said it to me.” Miss Manners advises saying this with a trembling lip, if you can manage it. And do not crack a smile as your sister-in-law wearily tries to back-pedal.