DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a man asked if I would date him, I politely declined his request. I told him that we could still be friends. Since then, he has been acting as if we are in a serious relationship. He has been calling me “hon” and putting his arm around me. This makes me feel very uncomfortable. How do I tell him I am not interested and still be kind?
GENTLE READER: There is only one response that this man would consider kind, and he does not merit it. Miss Manners recommends instead a noticeable coldness, including saying “Please don’t touch me,” as being both more deserved and more effective.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother and sister-in-law are very kind to me, letting me stay at their house for visits, inviting me to their children’s birthdays and so on. But what on earth do I do when they have asked me to one of the children’s parties, and it turns out the mother-in-law is hosting?
They don’t tell her I am coming, and she is always surprised to see me. Half the time they don’t tell me it isn’t their party either, or my brother swears up and down he will tell her and then just mentions it casually after she’s walked in the door. (The parties are usually held at my brother’s house and are informal, with MIL bringing food and presents for the children.)
Once, she took them out to a restaurant, and they took me along as an uninvited guest. I was completely mortified that they not only didn’t tell her, but that they didn’t tell me they hadn’t. I tried to pay for my share, but she refused. I tried to write her a thank-you note, but my brother refused to give it to her or to give me her address, saying only, “I know she doesn’t mind! She just is startled to see you, that’s all.” (Sister-in-law supports him in this.)
Poor MIL tries to be nice about it, saying, “Oh! You’re here! It’s always a pleasure to see you, but Ethan didn’t mention you.” I always feel completely mortified and somewhat used, since Ethan usually only invites me to keep an eye on the kids. I just want to know if there is anything I can say to MIL, or to Ethan when this happens again.
GENTLE READER: It is time to fire Ethan – not as your brother, necessarily, but certainly as your go-between with his mother-in-law.
As it sounds like you will be thrown together with her soon enough, Miss Manners recommends a private talk in which you express your gratitude for past favors, your embarrassment at being an unexpected encumbrance – and your need for an address to which to post thank-you letters. If she is as gracious as you believe, the result may well be a new, warm family relationship, free from unintended slights. She is no doubt familiar with the ways of her daughter and son-in-law.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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