Dear Miss Manners: Most of our friends and acquaintances have embarked on the task of producing children. This means I am invited to multitudes of baby showers, sometimes more than one for each baby.
I disapprove of baby showers for two reasons: First, we are in a global resource crisis, and people, especially Americans, should have fewer children; and second, showers encourage wasteful consumerism, when the mother can easily obtain hand-me-downs for her rapidly growing child.
I am also alarmed at the shocking number of otherwise intelligent people who, despite various forms of birth control being widely available, still have unplanned pregnancies.
Most of my friends' pregnancies have been associated with shotgun weddings, underwater home mortgages or conception occurring following the loss of the father's job.
For these reasons and others, I am generally not thrilled when my friends become pregnant. I love my friends, but once they have kids, they fall off the face of the earth. It makes me sad to watch them throw away their promising careers and lives to enter the black hole of babydom (which, despite common arguments to the contrary, almost all do).
Given this, it seems inappropriate for me to attend baby showers. My friends are all familiar with my views on reproduction. I am happy to help in other ways — come over and do the household chores for a day, for instance. But is there a polite way to decline to attend a good friend's shower?
Gentle Reader: Yes, certainly. It is: "Thank you so much for the invitation, but I will not be able to attend."
Miss Manners notices that being familiar with your views did not deter your friends from having children, so you needn't feel neglectful about refraining from repeating them.
Dear Miss Manners: My sister and brother-in-law are going through a very bitter divorce. We have since found out that he is a liar and a cheat.
There will be times in the future that we are attending the same social function. How do I show my disdain for this man without being considered rude? What if he should approach me to speak? What if he is with the woman who has contributed to the breakup of the marriage?
Gentle Reader: A divorce, like a funeral, has many mourners but few principals. (Participants sometimes also divest themselves of their principles, but that is a separate topic.)
Proper responses can range from a cold aloofness to a deliberate snub, but as your grievance is subsidiary to your sister's, you should follow her lead. Even then, it must be done quietly, so that your reaction will not attract the attention of other guests. Please remember that your primary obligation at such events is to avoid spoiling them with the fallout from less happy situations.
"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website, missmanners.com.