Miss Manners: ‘Public’ purchases invite comments

06/16/2014 7:00 AM

06/16/2014 2:57 PM

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are both in our early 30s and have been married for three years. Finally, we have been able to get the engagement ring we have always wanted.

We are not wealthy by any means. We work very hard; we both have two jobs after deciding that our priority was to pay down all our debts and live below our means (which means severely limiting going out to dinners and the movies).

At first, it did bother me when I saw from my friends’ social media posts and pictures how much fun they were having, but our method has allowed us to start saving toward building a house overseas.

I knew that there would be mixed emotions from people in our social circle once the ring became public news, and since then we have received the wonderful and expected congratulations.

Unfortunately, we have also been met with sarcasm and critical remarks, such as, “Of course you guys were able to afford a ring — you don’t have kids!”

This comment hurts me deeply, as we have secretly struggled with miscarriages in the past. It also makes me feel that I am an outsider and like my hard-earned happiness is being trampled on.

I have made mistakes in my life, financial and otherwise; but it seems that because I did not make the same choices my friends have (such as starting a family at a very young age, job hopping every few months, or consistently going out every weekend) that my happiness is somehow not substantiated.

I am not sure how to respond without being rude when comments of this nature are directed at me, but I am tired of being beaten down for my success.

GENTLE READER: Exactly how did your buying a ring become “public news”?

Miss Manners doubts that even people who are brash enough to grab the hand of a newly engaged lady to check out the expected jewelry would think to do so to someone married three years previously.

You told them, didn’t you— directly or through a social media posting, or both?

And by labeling it an engagement ring, you (as you acknowledge) expected congratulations — not on becoming engaged, after marriage, but on acquiring a piece of jewelry.

Mind you, Miss Manners not only agrees that how you spend your hard-earned money is none of anyone’s business, but she even can understand that the illogic of calling it an engagement ring has sentimental charm for you and your husband. Had a friend happened to notice the ring, it would have been in a complimentary way, and you would not likely have been subjected to criticism for confiding that it is the engagement ring you never had at the time of your engagement.

But you made it, as you say, “public news.” And therefore you solicited reaction from the public. Not everyone is polite and sympathetic enough to go along with your notion of this as an engagement.

Your response to criticism can be to say, “Well, it makes us happy,” stiffly enough so as to discourage further comment. Then you should resolve not to seek public approval of your private business when you are not also prepared to accept public disapproval.

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, www.missmanners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

© Universal Uclick 6/17

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