Mr PostManners

September 19, 2005

jealous of an ex

Dear Mr. Postmanners:

I'm thirty years old, and I've been dating my boyfriend for the past year. I love him madly, we have wonderful conversations, incredible sex, we have a lot in common, and we even enjoy just being together and doing nothing in particular. But he does one thing that I can't stand. He still hangs out too much with his last boyfriend!

He and the Ex dated for two years, but broke up two years ago, more than a year before he met me. He talks to the ex every day on the phone and sees him at least three or four times a week -- they work near each other and do lunch frequently. I don't think they're having sex -- my boyfriend said that one of the reasons they broke up was that they were sexually incompatible, whatever that meant -- and really, the few times I've seen him away from my boyfriend, he seemed sort of ... well, dull. On the other hand, when he's with my boyfriend, he seems comparatively lively, although still not the most exciting person around. And honestly, as far as I can tell, the only thing either of them seem to have in common, aside from the normal sorts of things that one might have in common with a long-term lover, is a really surprising interest in being chic and stylish when it comes to clothes.

But still, I feel very left out and jealous. There are times I would frankly like to take a gun and shoot them both and shred their excessively stylish wardrobes.

Tell me, Mr PostManners, what should I do?


Jealous and Hating It

Dear Jealous,

Oh, dear. Well, first, one will tell you to put the gun down. Right now. No ... NOW. DOWN. ... Yes, and the scissors, too. Step away from the closet and dresser ... There. Isn't that better? After all, no matter how upset you may feel about this situation, risking prison is really terribly unwise, and your boyfriend is unlikely to take the destruction of his quite expensive wardrobe very well.

One wonders: if this person was simply a close friend, and not an ex, would you be quite so upset? After all, people do have some quite close friends.

But still. As this is a former amant, and not merely a friend, one suggests that you might talk to your boyfriend to let him know how insecure you're feeling. The two of you may find some compromise, such as your boyfriend agreeing to see his former amant one or two times less per week. (Your side of that compromise, One is afraid, would likely to be to agree to however much telephone contact they might like.)

One also requests that you look at the words you have written to One. For all their chatter and seeming closeness, you yourself say that they seem to have surprisingly little in common. Their talk seems to be on interests you yourself do not share with your partner, judging from your lack of interest in them. Your significant other can never share each and every interest with you; that would, after all, make them a very peculiar sort of clone.

In any event, one advises you to talk to your partner, and see if you can work this out. One does warn you, if you can't work out something this simple, relatively speaking, you may be in for a difficult time ahead.

(Oh, dear. One's Social Secretary is positively insisting on commenting, and on being quoted directly. If he weren't such a very good Social Secretary, One would never so indulge him. But so. He says, and One quotes:

Just get the hell over yourself, will you? They're not screwing around, he comes home to you, he loves you and shares most of his life with you. You begrudge him a few hours a week? What sort of control freak are you, anyway?

Er ... well, yes. One did mention that the Social Secretary is quite ... forceful, didn't One? Yes.


Mr PostManners

February 20, 2003

rsvp whodunnit, or rather, who gets to do it

Dear Mr. Postmanners,

We sent invitations to several people who live in other areas & different states. Do we assume that they not attending our wedding if they do not send back the RSVP? Or should we call them & if so, who should do the calling, Bride, Bride's Mother, Maid-of-Honor...?


Baffled Bride

Dear BB,

As One has noted before, an unfortunate decline in modern manners means that people frequently spend a great deal of time tracking down responses to invitations, just to make certain that people are or aren't arriving. It is sad, but it is one of those duties that must be done. Normally, you would be able to assume that people living a long distance away would not be coming, but One would hate to tell you just how many times One's friends have been surprised by relatives and accquaintances appearing at a wedding (and more aggravatingly, the reception dinner), even when they live a great distance away, because it would make a lovely little weekend trip or they decide at the last possible minute that it would be nice to have a little visit with old friends or relatives. Thus, it is best not to make assumptions. (Except to assume that you'll have a few unexpected attendees and a few people who confirm but then unexpectedly don't appear. This will happen no matter what you do. Alas.)

In general, it's best to set your personal deadline for the return of the cards to be at least one or two weeks before the caterer's deadline, if it happens to be relevant to your situation. Later than that, and the caterer may be unable to make changes to their arrangements.

As for who should call ... very technically speaking, it should be the people who are hosting the wedding. That is, if your invitations and announcements are of the form, "The parents of Baffled Bride hereby announce/invite you to the wedding of Our Dear Daughter and Her Befuddled Groom", then the parents technically should do the calling, as they're the ones who are making the arrangements. Similarly, if the bride and groom are hosting themselves -- that is, if the announcements are of the form, "Baffled Bride and Befuddled Groom are pleased to announce their wedding on Wednesday, March 17...", then the bride and groom are technically the ones who would make the calls. More practically, it might be better to divide up the calls based on who knows the recipient best. If it's one of the bride's friends who failed to return the card, the bride should call; if it's one of the groom's friends, he should call. If it's one of those relatives that You/He Absolutely Did Not Want to Invite But My/His Parents Insisted, then the appropriate set of parents should call. Divide up the work and spend a day or two having a calling party. It's a nice way to divide up the stress. Especially since some of the respondents are certain to be aggravatingly uncertain about their future plans.

Yours invitingly,

Mr PostManners

January 23, 2003

How do you tell ....?

Dear Mr. Postmanners:

My question has to do with propriety. To wit: how do you tell if someone is pretty, witty, and gay?

At a recent party, I had reason to converse with a handsome, charming man. He sparkled, he was witty, I sparkled back, all was well. We talked in great detail about the latest musicals on the Great White Way. I thought this was A Clue. After all, in this day and age, what red-blooded heterosexual man would admit to knowing about musicals, let alone in detail?

Imagine my surprise as, just as I was about toask him for a date, a woman walked up, took his arm, and asked what we were talking about. He introduced me to her as his wife. His wife! I was shocked, I tell you.

Unfortunately, this situation has happened to me more than once. So my question to you, sir, is: in the absence of any proper code, how does one tell?

Yours in confusion,

Quandary in Quad Cities

Dear Quandary,

..... Oh, dear.

Well, really, the best way to "tell" is to simply ask.

Now, before you protest that this would be possibly a way to insure damage to your bodily integrity, please, hear One out. One is most emphatically NOT advising you to simply walk up to the nearest man that appeals and say, "So, you gay or what?" (Although, really, it would be a much more pleasant world if you could do that without fear, wouldn't it? But One digresses.)

Traditionally, people have used all sorts of coded approaches. People used to talk about "friends of Dorothy", but these days, not only will a great many gay people be clueless, a great many straight people actually do know what that means. Thus, it has fallen into disuse. People, as you well know, used to be able to assume that men who knew about musicals was "a friend of Dorothy". However, as you have discovered, knowledge of musicals is broader than one might expect. (One points out that, economically speaking, musicals couldn't survive on Broadway if more heterosexual people than homosexual people didn't go to see them. Really, there are very few sections of the economy that would survive otherwise.) Some have even tried quoting certain lines from old movies -- "Love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair!" or "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night," or even the two lines from Whatever happened to Baby Jane:
-- You wouldn't be doing this to me if I weren't in this chair.
-- But you ARE, Blanche, you ARE!
Tragically, this method has foundered on the shoals of the rapid expansion of film societies, and the availability of older movies in various video formats. (One's Social Secretary is egging One to point out that the first time anyone tried this line on Mr Postmanners, One's response was not the correct "But you ARE" line, as One had not yet seen the film in question. One actually said, "But I'm not doing anything to you, and you're not sitting down. What on earth are you talking about?" There was much confusion. Happily, One hired One's social secretary anyway, and he has done much to expand One's repertoire of old films.)

And, of course, there are Europeans, who confuse the entire issue. European men are very touchy-feely, by comparison with Americans -- except for the British, of course, who won't touch anyone without express, and sometimes strongly repeated, invitation. Strong American men have been known to suddenly bellow, "Stop touching me!" at the top of their lungs, and then to run off weeping after half an hour in the presence of certain Europeans. Even when they don't go to such extremes, it's sometimes amusing to watch manly American men get quite twitchy in the presence of European men who seem to have 67 hands. (No, One is not always nice. Although One is always scrupulously correct. Politesse, toujours politesse.) Europeans are also considerably less concerned with appearing stereotypically manly. Thus, confusion reigns.

In other words, there is no longer any sure code in the world. It is no longer possible to make assumptions founded in a shared, very small and specific knowledge base. Horrors! What is one to do? (That being you, of course, and not Oneself, as One does not need to worry about such things. One's Social Secretary keeps One heavily scheduled and thoroughly exhausted. But One digresses.)

So, you may well be wondering, what exactly is one supposed to ask, then? And One says, you should ask them about their lives. In general, especially in social situations, people really don't mind talking about themselves. If their interests appear to be congruent with yours, ask if their significant other shares their interests. (People seldom get horrified if you make the default assumption that they are heterosexual. Depending on the surroundings, of course. Making that assumption at a meeting of the local chapter of the Human Rights Campaign would just be silly. But One digresses.) Ask if they have children. (Given the recent explosion in gays and lesbians actually reproducing, this may be singularly uninformative in some ways. However, it's always good to know if someone in whom you are interested has children, isn't it?) Ask about their pet dog or cat, for heavens sake. Ask about their hobbies. Ask about their opinions of noncontroversial current events. At worst, you will run into a deeply closeted person who will give out no information at all ... and who wants to deal with them? At best, you will find a kindred spirit. And you may well find a straight person with whom you can have a friendship, and that's not a bad thing, is it?

One should note that this method may not work well with Europeans. For all their touchy-feeliness by comparison with Americans, Europeans are frequently appalled at the ease with which Americans, Canadians and especially Australians frequently share what they consider to be very personal information with complete strangers. Such questions are frequently met with polite horror. Tread carefully.

(One's dear friend Gabriel was reading over One's shoulder while One was composing this response, and advocated many more, shall we say, forceful methods of determining these facts. One will not be recounting these methods for you as every single one of them is unwise, at least three of them are possibly illegal, and one of them is anatomically improbable. Although given the recent prevalence of low-rise hiphugger pants, one of the methods could actually be excused as an accident these days, and how often would you think that would be possible?)


Mr Postmanners

January 21, 2003

what do you say in the receiving line?

Dear Mr Postmanners:

When you are in a receiving line at after a wedding, what exactly do you say to the bride and groom? What do you say to the parents of the participants? Is there some protocol for handling all of this? I had heard that there was a specific sex-defined way to handle this, but surely we're past that in this day and age!


Confounded in Connecticut

Dear C in C:

One must sternly inform you that when it comes to weddings, society will always and forever have forms and protocols divided by sex that will never make sense to the participants or observants. For example, why aren't women allowed to catch the bridal garter? Why aren't men allowed to try for the bouquet? Some things Simply Are. As it turns out, receiving line etiquette, up to a point, is one of these things.

Traditionally, you are supposed to give your "best wishes" to the bride and "congratulations" to the groom. The concept is that "congratulations" implies that someone has won a prize or caught something, and it is somehow impolite to imply that the bride "caught" her husband. Yet it is entirely polite to imply that the groom "caught" the bride. One has no idea why. (Although it may go some way to explaining the rather odd sense of tittilation people seem to feel at watching "The Bachelorette" where she is quite obviously doing the "fishing", as it were, and throwing back the small ones. But one digresses.) However, if you wish to be entirely neutral about the whole thing (and One can applaud such a desire), it is also entirely proper to give your "best wishes" to both the bride and groom.

As for the rest of the people in the receiving line, you should remember that one of the goals of such a line is to acknowledge everyone that has attended the wedding, and to do so quickly. Also, depending on your relationship to the bride and/or groom, a few of the people in the receiving line may not have the foggiest idea who you are. Therefore, the most effective sort of thing to say is, "Hello, I'm C in C and I work with Bride (or Groom) at Workplace/went to school with them/met them through friends, etc." They will respond with "How do you do" or "Nice to meet you" or "I've heard so much about you" or some such, and you smile, nod politely, and move on to the next person.

December 26, 2002

Torn between quite a few lovers

Dear Mr Postmanners,

After the recent ending of my longterm relationship, I've recently started dating again. Prior to the beginning of that relationship, I was never what you'd call a big dater, or even terribly popular. I determined that now that I was out of my relationship, I would leave myself open to new experiences. And now somehow -- and I'm not quite sure how this happened -- I seem to be dating five men at once. I've been up-front with all of them that I have been seeing others, and nobody seems to mind, but now it's becoming quite confusing.

I've been on dates with all of them. Some of the dates have lasted until the next day, if you take my meaning. Of the five, one is an old friend, whom I think I would like to return to that category. Is there any way other than the tired, "I think we should just be friends" speech to manage that? After all, that speech usually means "Go away, I never want to see you again," and I really don't mean that.

As for the others ... well, I'm just not sure. I could give the "Let's be friends and go away forever" speech to one of them, and not be terribly upset if he actually went away forever. The others all have wonderful qualities, and I could happily start a relationship with any of them ... but not with all of them! I don't have the time! I don't have the endurance! How do I choose any one of them (or possibly two if I'm feeling ambitious), and how do I tell them of my decision?


Overextended in Overton Park

Dear Overextended,


One should confess immediately that the Postmanners staff is severely divided on this issue. One's social secretary is convinced that it's all merely a matter of scheduling. (Well, that would be his outlook, wouldn't it?) One's dear friend and periodic advisor Gabriel is convinced that you merely underestimate your endurance, and that it's all a matter of training, as well as scheduling. Them, you understand, not necessarily yourself. Although he does recommend increasing your aerobic exercises to be on the safe side. (Gabriel married an entire militia. One is not sure that he would be reliable, or even vaguely typical, in matters such as these.)

As for Oneself ... One thinks that you should just decide which man (or men) you want, and go for it. Talk to the one you would like to keep as a friend, and determine his feeling on this relationship. You may discover that he feels the same -- these things are often mutual -- or that with a great deal of talking, you can discover the things between you that would let you remain friends after you kiss him off ... er, that is, after you tell him regretfully that you no longer desire his intimate affections. That said, you should also allow him some time without contact, if he so desires, to get over his disappointment at the way the relationship turned out. After all, the "lets be friends" speech, no matter how sincerely meant, is not easy to hear when unprepared for it.

As for the ones you with whom you wish to maintain a more intimate relationship, be certain that they know about your ground rules for nonexclusive relationships, if that's the way it falls out. After all, it would be awful to be in an intimate situation with one man and have the other unexpectedly appear, should you have given him the keys to your apartment, and the yelling and tumult could be just horrendous.

Not that One would have any experience of such things, of course. One always conducts One's relationships with the utmost probity and candor. (One's social secretary also has a very big and somewhat painful paddle. Leather covered wood. With metal studs. Not that One would need this motivation to keep one's affairs orderly. One is just saying.)

Yours in friendship,

Mr Postmanners


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