DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is in the academic field. We have a friend/colleague (Mr. Smith), an acknowledged leader in his field who stays with us when in town on the lecture circuit.
My problem is another colleague of my husband’s (Joe) who literally worships the ground Mr. Smith walks on. I have no problem with this. Mr. Smith deserves all accolades. I do have a problem with Joe showing up at our house uninvited, staying from breakfast to dinner throughout Mr. Smith’s visit.
We never see Joe any other time and this is a good thing. Joe has repeatedly tried to cast aspersions on my husband’s work and character over the past 30 years. We don’t like Joe.
He totally ignores us the whole time he’s at the house except when I offer food or drink. I’ve invited him to all faculty get-togethers; he never comes. I’ve tried pointedly to invite him to dinner or lunch or breakfast while Mr. Smith is here, and that doesn’t work. I’ve tried looking surprised and confused when he appears at the door and saying, “I don’t remember inviting you for breakfast,” but he just says, “Oh, Mr. Smith and I are old friends, I don’t need an invitation.”
I don’t know how to state the obvious without sounding rude. What can be done?
GENTLE READER: What would be rude to say to the stalker would be somewhat amusing and flattering if said to the stalkee.
“I’m afraid that you have a very persistent fan club in our friend Joe,” you might say to Mr. Smith. “We thoroughly share his admiration for you, but he does get a bit underfoot, and he doesn’t understand about waiting to be invited. I’m wondering if you could drop him a hint about having the fan club meet elsewhere.”
While your words have been ineffective, those of the hero himself are bound to be respected. Miss Manners would not be surprised if this brought forth a confession from Mr. Smith that he, too, is tired of his worshiper and was tolerating his constant presence out of politeness to you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My dad passed away a little over a year ago. Is it appropriate to still wish my mom a happy anniversary on their wedding anniversary date? I avoided it last year because I didn’t know what to do.
It’s coming up again soon and I am at a loss again. It would have been their 48th anniversary. I don’t want to pretend like it didn’t happen or that it isn’t special anymore because he is gone. What should I do?
GENTLE READER: You seem to think that the words “happy anniversary” are the only ones you can use. And you are right that they do not suit the situation. Still, it is a date that your widowed mother will remember, so you must think of words that do.
At best, this will be a bittersweet occasion for her, and Miss Manners can assure you that the lady would be gratified to know that you shared her feelings – as long as you don’t urge her to be happy about marking it without her husband.
What she will want to hear is that you remember the date, that you are thinking of her, that you miss your father, and that you have happy memories of the two of them.