Q: When I’m expecting guests, I will keep one eye out my window to watch for their arrival. When their car pulls into my driveway, I will open my door for them and greet them on the stoop, or if they have items to bring in, I will meet them at their vehicle to lend a hand.
Unfortunately, I don’t often receive the same courtesy when I visit others. Many times, I have been left standing on a front porch for what seems like long periods of time after having rung the doorbell, hearing sounds of life from inside but no urgency to let me in.
Am I expecting too much to be greeted at the door before the bell is even rung?
A: Yes. Yes, you are.
It is one thing to be ready for your guests near to their appointed arrival time. But quite another to cease all activity long before it — and to be peering out the door, ready to pounce before they do. Particularly since not all guests are as prompt as Miss Manners can only assume you must be.
If it is truly taking an inordinate amount of time for your hosts to come to their door, then you may say politely, “Oh dear. Am I early?” when they finally do. But only if you can manage to say it without an accusatory edge.
Q: My husband of 33 years and I have separated, although not legally. I have not seen him for 18 months. This is my choice. (Actually, I was heartbroken.)
His mother has expressed to our grown children that she would like to see me again. I have reason to suspect that this is motivated by curiosity and the possibility of future gossip. This sort of thing seems to make her feel important.
I always treated her with the respect that my husband demonstrated for her, despite his occasional disappointments in her as a mother.
Must I see her? Must I respond? Obviously, I’m hoping that I needn’t. But I realize this is probably a purely selfish response.
Of importance to me, of course, is that I not add to our grown children’s discomfort. But, life being as it is, is that rightfully my responsibility in this matter?
A: Not to make your children uncomfortable? On the contrary, Miss Manners thought that that was every parent’s right and privilege.
However, if you wish to relieve your children of the burden of being in the middle, tell them to ask your former mother-in-law to contact you directly. Then, based on any ensuing invitations, you can suss out whether you want to actually meet up with her. This should not only get your children off the hook, but also be a critical first step in thwarting her if, indeed, her true intention was just to stir up trouble.
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.