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IT'S BEST TO SAY GOODBYE

Dear Miss Manners: My daughter's wedding five months ago was very small, and only family was invited except for a couple whom we have known for 31 years, who are considered "family." These people have always been there for us, and we have been there for them.

At the wedding, my friends got drunk, and Mrs. X lay on the floor twice and received lots attention from the other guests (many of whom were physicians). Her husband was loud and mean to me and to some guests. They had a very negative effect on the wedding.

My daughter and her husband are very hurt, and my daughter has difficulty when speaking to them. Another reason for her negative feelings is they never acknowledged her marriage with a gift or a card. I, on the other hand, am treating them as though nothing happened.

Last week, Mr. and Mrs. X had a party to celebrate her daughter's graduation from medical school. Only family and selected friends were invited. His children (from a previous marriage) and I were not invited. Mrs. X told me his children are hurt. I am not mad, but I am hurt. I need an unbiased opinion -- do I continue treating them as though these things have not occurred?

Gentle Reader: In the hope that they will continue to be "there" for you? Why? Does your floor seem empty without her? Are your family celebrations dull without his loudly abusing you and the other guests?

Miss Manners just wants to make sure she understands the problem. Much as she appreciates loyalty to old friends, she is having a difficult time believing that you hope to get back into their good graces, such as they are.

If these are ordinarily considerate, well-behaved, affectionate friends who have suddenly spun out of control, surely you should be alarmed about them rather than miffed to be left out of their shenanigans. If this is just the way they have always been, and you truly are hurt that they are distancing themselves -- well, that's what's giving Miss Manners trouble.

No matter. Although these people know something about social crimes, it is only a misdemeanor to fail to include friends at a family party. But it does mean that they are distancing themselves, and you would do well to accept this by stepping back as well.

Separating work, home

Dear Miss Manners: I operate a day-care out of my home. I am having a problem with a parent who doesn't seem to want to leave when picking up her son. At times this parent will stay for an hour trying to talk to me.

How do I tell this mom that I do not want to be her friend? I do not like to get too personal with the parents of the kids that I provide care for. This parent calls me just to talk on a regular basis. If I tell her I can't talk right then, she just calls me later. Please help me with this problem.

Gentle Reader: The threshold that is supposed to separate the workplace from private space has become seriously eroded everywhere, and here you are trying to maintain it in your home, where you welcome your clients' children. Miss Manners offers you her sympathy and her admiration.

The solution is to revert to professional behavior. Toward parents, who will sometimes need legitimate access, that means establishing calling hours and sticking to them. Toward children, it means continuing instruction until they are out the door: "Brandon, it's time to go home with your mother now, and I'll see you in the morning."

Address your etiquette questions to Miss Manners, in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions except through this column.

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