There isn’t one. You needn’t call her your stepmother, but you do have to acknowledge that she is your father’s wife. This is a legal definition, not a matter of your deciding whether it is right or wrong. If you want to be cold, and Miss Manners gathers that you do, you could introduce her as Mrs. with her surname.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been divorced for nearly two years. My ex-husband chose an exceptionally lovely wedding set, which I always enjoyed wearing. We agreed that I should keep the ring when we parted ways.
It’s been in a ring box in the safe for the past two years, and it seems a shame that something so beautiful is hidden from view. I know I will never sell it, and I have no children.
Is this beautiful object destined to live a life unseen? I no longer have any illusions about the ring’s emotional value and have been contemplating wearing it on my non-wedding finger, but is that acceptable?
Also, I have a friend who has always fawned over the ring — to the point that upon hearing of the divorce, she offered to have her beloved “make me an offer” to take it off my hands, which I graciously declined by telling her that she wouldn’t possibly want such a cursed item. (That explanation seemed easier than calling attention to what I’m sure must have been a momentary slip of her usual good sense.)
Is the ring cursed — or is it just bad form to recycle an item that represents a broken marriage? Clearly no one ever asks whether “Grandma” or “Auntie” had a successful marriage when accepting an heirloom, but the outcome of this ring’s marriage is not even up for debate, so I’m in limbo. And if it is cursed, what does one do to remove that curse?
GENTLE READER: How did your divorce get to be the ring’s fault?
Just as Miss Manners had concluded that invoking a curse was a graceful way for you to parry your friend’s offer, you showed that you were beginning to fall for it yourself.
Perhaps you are confusing a curse with a symbol. The ring did, indeed, carry symbolic value at one time, and some divorced ladies who still feel that but don’t want to give up their rings have the stones re-set.
But you say that you are over that feeling, in which case rings revert to being jewelry only. And curse-less.
Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.
2012, by Judith Martin
Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS