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Dear Carolyn: I recently got engaged to an amazing girl. We have been dating 10 months, and for the past couple of months she has been talking to her ex. It kind of bugs me. They would write letters back and forth while he was in rehab. She says she loves only me but that he needs support. I agree, but in many of his letters he tells her he loves her, and that totally bugs me. She says that’s just the way he is and she has no feelings for him. I think he is trying to mess us up. She disagrees, and it has been putting a lot of strain on our relationship. On her own, she told him she didn’t want to be friends anymore, but she didn’t like it, and two days later she is back to talking to him.
Dear Miss Manners: My ex-husband and I were together for five years. Even though he wanted the divorce, it took him nearly two years to move on. He recently started dating someone again, and I am happy for him. (I kept urging him to move on – we are still friends.) He recently sent our son a card, and his new girlfriend signed it. They have been dating (to my knowledge) less than two months. Am I being overly sensitive, or is this tacky?
Dear Miss Manners: My wife is very refined and attractive and a little obsessive and compulsive when it comes to her grooming. I appreciate that, but when we go out in public or meet others at a restaurant, she will bring her nail buffing set with her and buff her nails within the view of others.
Dear Miss Manners: Last night, my wife made a pointed remark that when she went on a business trip with her financial adviser, he opened the car door, and sat her in a restaurant and “acted like a gentleman.” I no longer do this for her because it just seems phony and old-fashioned, and, in a way, condescending of a woman’s ability. Now, for her financial adviser to do this is understandable. After all, she is his client, not his wife. In today’s world, should I do this?
Dear Miss Manners: The demise of the formal occasion is a real tragedy. I used to keep three tuxedos “warm.” Now I eagerly await the next chance. However, many men protest because they are embarrassed by their inability to tie a bow tie and repelled by the option to use a clip-on. These protesting fellows miss the major advantage of any formal occasion, that of being in the presence of lots of beautifully turned-out women in attractive gowns of a seemingly infinite variety.
While I’m away, readers give the advice.
Dear Miss Manners: I am sorry for never saying “thank you” to my family and want to apologize, but I am not sure how to go about doing it. You see, as a child my mother would always force my siblings and me to write thank-you notes to family after receiving birthday and Christmas gifts. We were taught that it was the right thing to do.
Dear Miss Manners: At what size table is it appropriate for guests to have conversations with the people sitting next to them, and when should a host/hostess expect that the entire table will participate in one conversation? I realize that there once were rules for this when dinner tables sat 12 to 24 people, and conversation changed sides with the courses, but with somewhat smaller dinners now, it often seems that guests don’t know when or how best to participate. If it is a larger table (say, 10-plus), should guests feel hesitant in initiating conversation with the person next to him/her if there is an active discussion going on among others not so near?
Dear Miss Manners: I gave a relative a pot of poinsettia as a hostess gift, thinking it was festive and appropriate for a holiday visit. The hostess received it by saying, “Thanks – isn’t this poisonous?” I was embarrassed and dumbfounded (I managed to grit my teeth into an almost-smile and told myself to not mind – but obviously I cannot “not mind it”!). I was also angry at myself for not having a glib reply.
Emily Hazard's grandfather handwrote his thank-you notes every year on Christmas night. They were always dated Dec. 25. "They were really quite impressive," says Hazard. "They were also a signal to the rest of us when we received them several days later that we'd better get cracking."
It's a quarter to midnight and you've just uncorked a bottle of the bubbly. The glasses are filled and everyone is poised. Suddenly, all eyes turn to you for the toast. Here we give you some advice on how to maneuver the New Year's Eve ritual - what to say when the clock strikes 12.
(photo of a hunter in the woods)