This time I’m doing something different: instead of answering a question directed to me, I’m adding my two cents to a question already asked of and answered by Miss Manners. This is because I found the answer lacking.
“DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are both in our early 30s and have been married for three years. Finally, we have been able to get the engagement ring we have always wanted.
We are not wealthy by any means. We work very hard; we both have two jobs after deciding that our priority was to pay down all our debts and live below our means (which means severely limiting going out to dinner and the movies).
At first, it did bother me, when I saw from my friends’ social media posts and pictures about how much fun they were having, but our method has allowed us to start saving toward building a house overseas.
I knew that there would be mixed emotions from people in our social circle once the ring became public news, and since then we have received the wonderful and expected congratulations.
Unfortunately, we have also met with sarcasm and critical remarks, such as, ‘Of course you guys were able to afford a ring — you don’t have kids!’
This comment hurts me deeply, as we have secretly struggled with miscarriages in the past. It also makes me feel that I am an outsider and like my hard-earned happiness is being trampled on.
I have made mistakes in my life, financial and otherwise; but it seems that because I did not make the same choices as my friends have (such as starting a family at a very young age, job hopping every few months or consistently going out every weekend) that my happiness is somehow not substantiated.
I am not sure how to respond without being rude when comments of this nature are directed at me, but I am tired of being beaten down for my success.
GENTLE READER: Exactly how did your buying a ring become ‘public news’?
Miss Manners doubts that even people who are brash enough to grab the hand of a newly engaged lady to check out the expected jewelry would think to do so to someone married three years previously.
You told them, didn’t you — directly or through a social media posting or both?
And by labeling it an engagement ring, you (as you acknowledge) expected congratulations — not on becoming engaged, after marriage, but on acquiring a piece of jewelry.
Mind you, Miss Manners not only agrees that how you spend your hard-earned money is none of anyone’s business, but she even can understand that the illogic of calling it an engagement ring has sentimental charm for your and your husband. Had a friend happened to notice the ring, it would have been in a complimentary way, and you would not likely have been subjected to criticism for confiding that it is the engagement ring you never had at the time of your engagement.
But you made it, as you say, ‘public news’. And therefore you solicited reaction from the public. Not everyone is polite and sympathetic enough to go along with your notion of this as an engagement.
Your response to criticism can be to say, ‘Well, it makes us happy,’ stiffly enough to discourage further comment. Then you should resolve not to seek public approval of your private business when you are not also prepared to accept public disapproval.”
Wow, Miss Manners really dropped the ball on this one. How unusual for a lowly human (not!).
The issue here is not whether the asker availed private business to public approval, but that she considers people to be friends with whom she is clearly unhappy. Here’s an earth-shattering notion for stupid people: hang around a higher quality of people or none at all!
Easy for a cat to say, right? Humans are “social animals” and all that crap.
Yet, it really is that simple. You get what you settle for. Some people are chronically, shamelessly rude and insensitive. If that’s a problem, don’t be around those people. Or, if they have enough redeeming value, accept them for what they are and focus on their better aspects. Either way, it’s not their responsibility to substantiate your happiness. They have their own lives.
The asker sounds condescending, as if living frugally and avoiding fun entitles them to being showered with verbal rose petals. But you know what? It doesn’t. All that means is you live differently from your chosen social group. Did she choose people she considers inferior, for the purpose of looking down on them and gloating about living below her means while the others squander away their money on the families they began at a very young age? In such a case, lording it over them that an expensive diamond ring was purchased could be perceived as very cruel and insecure behavior.
Of course, there is no shame in buying luxury items either. The problem here is the wrong social group. Birds of a feather flock together. If you’re around others who share your values and/or are sensitive to your feelings, you won’t have to listen to stupid comments like those you describe. I say and/or because you may get along very well with those who think it’s a stupid waste of money to buy an engagement ring but at least have enough manners to keep those opinions to themselves.
Miss Manners, if certain people are “not polite and sympathetic enough” then the asker should drop them! Not edit what she says. Bloody hell. Friends ought to be able to talk about things they’ve bought. Are your standards for friendship really this low?
To the asker: I also happen to think avoiding the stupid social media pages is a good idea too. And be careful what you post on your own. Guaranteed it’s going to piss someone off, no matter what it is. If you have a thick enough skin to handle it, fine, but you don’t, and that’s fine too.
Ultimately, I think this will fall on deaf ears. People can be so programmed to solicit approval from others that they lose sight of the fact that some people are a bad fit or are just bad people. If they don’t “get” you, don’t support your ideals, go against everything you care about, undermine your confidence in what you want to do, drop ‘em. That’s what a cat would do, without looking back.