DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m in a sticky situation at my college. During my freshman and sophomore years I was bullied by a group of five men. They made fun of me to my face, and they spread mean exaggerations and untrue rumors about me inside and outside class. This happened almost once per week.
The situation became so overwhelmingly humiliating, frustrating and infuriating that I completely cut off communication with one of the men. I do not talk to him or look at him ever, even though we have mutual friends and see each other frequently.
The problem is that I feel immature for using the “silent treatment.” However, communicating with this guy has resulted in extreme humiliation, to the point that I became depressed.
In this case, is the “silent treatment” acceptable, or is it still juvenile and rude? The pros are that my reputation and self-esteem are safe(ish). The cons are that I look rude, he knows he’s won, and it doesn’t solve anything. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: That it solves your having to deal with a bully.
The “silent treatment” that is rightly condemned generally refers to the refusal to speak to someone with whom one must get along, typically because they are in the same household or workplace. When a community does this to punish one of its members, it is called shunning. What makes it cruel is that it leaves the target isolated while unable to settle the problem through discussion.
What you propose – refusing to socialize with someone who has behaved toward you in an uncivilized manner – is different. It is what is known as administering the cut direct, and should be used only in cases of extreme bad behavior, but this appears to be such a case. Miss Manners only asks you to do this without making a spectacle of it that would attract attention.
Proper soup etiquette
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have just acquired six lovely double-handled creamed soup cups and am wondering how to eat from them politely. Are the handles to be used? Why the difference between the bowl and the cup?
GENTLE READER: Yes, yes! Go ahead and pick up the cup by both
handles and pour soup all over yourself.
But only at lunchtime. Soup cups work the day shift. At dinner, soup should be served in bowls or the more formal rimmed soup plates.
Strictly speaking, what you have are bouillon cups, although Miss Manners acknowledges that they have also long been pressed into service for cream soup.
Too many showers
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter, a recent college graduate, has received invitations to several wedding showers in one month alone – all of them including the phrase “share our joy!”
They are from all people she does not know well, and she is sending polite regrets.
These showers are attended by 100-plus people, most of whom are not invited to the wedding. Apparently this is their only opportunity to share the happy couple’s joy. I really want to know what Miss Manners thinks.
GENTLE READER: The hosts probably don’t. Miss Manners thinks it rude to invite people to a shower in connection with a wedding to which they will not be invited.
This adds to her suspicion about invitations to “share our joy.” The joy that these couples are offering to inspire in those on their catch-all guest list seems to be the joy of giving, while they propose to have the joy of getting. Your daughter is wise to decline.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com, or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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