Miss Manners: Recovered neighbor treated as contagious

July 20 at 12:00 AM


Dear Miss Manners: I was in the hospital in February, pre-pandemic. My neighbors sent me flowers. I wrote a thank-you note, but because I had a high fever, my brain was still fuzzy and I forgot to mail it.

Realizing my mistake, I rewrote the note, adding a thank-you for some masks they kindly gave us. It arrived the night that several neighbors were meeting for a socially distanced party on a large lawn.

Before the party, I had a conversation with one of the note recipients. He implied I was trying to give him anthrax, and asked if I was going to shower and wash my hands before attending the lawn party. He acted like I had put dog poop in his mailbox.

My feelings were hurt, but I’m sure he thinks he was in the right. Is this friendship over?

Well, he does sound like someone from whom you should maintain a great deal of social distance, regardless of prevailing health dangers. In addition to confusing two real but distinctive public alarms, he has jettisoned his manners.

Miss Manners recognizes the difficulty of dealing reasonably with someone who is hysterical, but perhaps you can soothe him by ignoring the insult and calmly stating that you have taken every precaution against spreading a disease you no longer have. Just do so at a great distance.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband of 30 years passed in March, and due to the pandemic, I have scheduled his memorial service for the summer. His daughter, a minister living in Sweden, was to officiate.

However, when she got the obituary, she angrily told me that she will neither come nor send any writing to be read, as I failed to list his ex-wife (divorced 35 years ago) in his obituary. Of course, I had mentioned his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Do I owe an apology? This has been an uneasy relationship for years. What is the custom?

The custom is to recount important events in the life of the deceased, and a marriage, no matter how long ago, is one of them.

Miss Manners would hope that you could put aside your reaction to the daughter’s anger enough to reflect that she is hurt that her mother’s part in the life of your husband — the part that led to some of those descendants, after all — was obliterated. The omission would have given the impression that you were the matriarch of that entire family.

So, yes, please apologize, pleading inexperience and grief, and saying how much it would have meant to her father to have her conduct the service.

Dear Miss Manners: Sometimes my husband yells at me when we are having an intense discussion. It is not merely raising his voice; he always sounds very angry, and sometimes contemptuous.

I find anger very hard to deal with, and I sometimes walk out of the room. He then accuses me of rudeness. Is it?

You are in need of an exit line. Miss Manners suggests, “We’ll discuss this when you are in a better frame of mind.”

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2020, by Judith Martin