Resist temptation to blame during apology

Published3/15/2008 12:33 AM

Q. I am going through an acrimonious divorce. My ex used a bruise on my daughter's hip to cause me and the children immense grief by reporting it to the authorities rather than simply calling or e-mailing for an explanation of the accident.

My two young daughters were pulled from their classes and were interviewed by the county specialist, with, in one case a teacher and, in the other case, the principal present. By the time I was interviewed, the specialist who had interviewed my daughters announced that clearly there was no abuse in this case and "this thing happens all the time in divorces."


Be that as it may, I feel terrible for my children and the school staff that had to go through this. I am at a loss as to how to deal with the teacher and principal.

Do I send a note apologizing for them having to interrupt their schedule and saying, "Sorry my ex is such a witch"? Although they heard my children say nice things about me in the interview, it would also be nice to let them know that I was exculpated, without sounding like a jerk. Any ideas?

A. In general, an apology should not attempt to blame someone else. In this case, Miss Manners certainly sees the temptation, but there are two more reasons to refrain from doing so.

First, a gentleman should never speak ill of his former wife. And second, you don't need to, because your having been exonerated makes her behavior quite clear. A note apologizing for the disruption of the school schedule could, however, mention that you were sorry that it was "unnecessarily" disrupted.

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Q. My husband and I hosted a Super Bowl party and were absolutely appalled by the number of guests who brought several of their own friends, without acknowledging these people in their RSVP. What should have been a party of 24 turned into 35, and it was difficult to accommodate everyone in our small townhouse.

Some of the "extra guests" did not even introduce themselves to me or my husband and proceeded to place their feet (and shoes) on our furniture. I wanted to be a gracious host, but I admit I was steamed by this lack of respect for my home.

I would like to communicate to my friends who WERE invited and brought these people that I don't appreciate the casual nature of their behavior, but how do I do this and not offend the friend?

A. By not inviting them to your next party. If they seem offended, you can say that this is just for your friends, and you know that they have other friends to entertain.

What puzzles Miss Manners is that you are characterizing them as "casual," in contrast to their friends, of whom you say they failed to respect your house. Casual is a word that many people mistakenly believe to mean (when applied to themselves) "charmingly unpretentious." It is at least as disrespectful to march other people into your party and even fail to introduce them (that was their job, not their friends') as to put feet on the furniture.

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