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Miss Manners: Should I pretend I never saw this insulting email?

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin - Miss Manners | Oct 18, 2021

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend forwarded to me, I believe in error, an email message written by a mutual acquaintance that was rather disparaging towards me personally. I suppose this is the electronic equivalent of accidentally overhearing a conversation.

What would be the appropriate response? Should I address the comments directly, as in, “What did Mr. X mean by these remarks?” Or indirectly, as in, “Did you mean to send me that message, or was it an error on your part?” Or should I just pretend I never received the information?

GENTLE READER: It depends on what you want your future relationship with each of them — the friend and the acquaintance — to be. The greater the discomfort you administer, satisfying as that might be, the less likely that either of you can get past this.

And really, we have all (except Miss Manners) made comments about others which we would not want them to hear, and all (without exception) pushed Send to the wrong address.

But perhaps you suspect viciousness, and feel that ignoring this would let them both off. In that case, ask the friend if forwarding the message was intentional, and if so, why. Perhaps it was intended to warn you of animosity you might not have suspected.

To disconcert the author of the offensive email, it should be enough to mention coolly that you inadvertently saw it, and apologize for having read it before realizing that it was not meant for you. Trust Miss Manners that it will be all the more upsetting if he does not know how you plan to react.

** ** **

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister believes that because weddings are celebrations, it is inappropriate for wedding guests to wear black, which we wear to funerals. (Tuxes would be exempted.)

While I would never normally tell guests what colors to wear to a party, is it acceptable for her to ask her wedding guests not to wear black?

GENTLE READER: You are both right and you are both wrong. Isn’t that often the way with sisters?

Black is still the color of mourning, even though you may have never seen anyone wearing it at a funeral. But look at the news coverage of funerals involving conspicuous people or circumstances, and you will see that it is still worn. Your sister is right about that.

You are right that beyond the general information that the wedding is to be formal or informal, you cannot tell guests what to wear — or, insultingly, what not to wear. You have to trust them, risky as that might seem.

** ** **

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I enjoy doing needlework and sewing crafts. I wore a blouse I had made and embroidered to a gathering of friends, and when asked, I said that I had made it. Most of my friends complimented me.

One person, though, said, “I hate you!” Of course it was said in a joking manner, but I have gotten this same reaction from other people and I’m never sure how to respond.

GENTLE READER: Some joke. The wonder of it is that people who make such idiotic remarks believe them to be compliments — as if you would be pleased to make others feel bad.

You should probably let it pass, but Miss Manners would understand if you could not resist saying, in the tone one might use with a pouting child, “Now, now, I’m sure you have talents of your own.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.


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