Q. My ex-husband is coming to our daughter's wedding and, as a matter of fact, giving the bride away. Fine. My daughter wants it that way, and I have no objection. But he wants to bring that bimbo he calls his new wife, who is not much older than our daughter.
The divorce was very difficult. She is the one who took him away from me. I held on for a long time, thinking he would get over it. My friends and pastor had explained to me that it is natural for a middle-aged man to panic and have a little fling -- but this one went on for three years, and I couldn't take it any longer.
I have seen him once or twice since, and have managed to be dignified, but do I really have to see her? My daughter, although she sided with me, seems to be friendly with them, and thinks she should come. If so, do I have to be polite to her?
A. As a point of etiquette, one cannot exclude a spouse from a wedding invitation. A marriage is a marriage and creates a social unit, regardless of whether it was achieved through kidnaping, as your account suggests. The wife's bimbohood is irrelevant.
However, Miss Manners cannot help noticing a flaw in your perception of who has injured you by dissolving your marriage. It is an old and ugly trick of society to pit the women against one another in a difficult situation and excuse the men even if, as seems to be the fact in your case, the women don't even know each other.
Miss Manners thinks it would be helpful to consider this, so that you may be in more of a frame of mind to work on your real question, which is: How can I triumph over my successor in front of all my friends and relations?
By acting triumphant. The greatest secret of social success (don't tell anyone else) is that people accept good performances with a thorough and charming suspension of disbelief. The reason that there are so many flops is not that the roles are unbelievable, but that most people are bad actors and worse playwrights.
How, for instance, does one act triumphant? Not by being haughty, as is your inclination, but by being generous. There is nothing like the full gratification of one's wishes to convince one that the world is a delightful place and all the people in it just as adorable as they can be.
Suppose it had been your fondest wish to unload your husband, so that you could pursue a clandestine relationship with a man so important that his identify must remain secret, or exercise your genius as a scriptwriter, or whatever. But because of your kindheartedness and your realization of how incompetent he is to fend for himself and how difficult for a woman to tolerate, your despaired of ever ridding yourself of his tiresome presence.
Along comes a woman eager for the job. But your conscience will not let you jump at the chance. She is too young to know what she is doing. How can you use her ignorance to stick her with this burden? Yet she insists. Well -- you have tried your best to save her. Now it is your turn to live.
Such a woman would greet her ex-husband's new wife with charm and care, just managing to suppress an air of triumph that would reveal the happiness and relief she has in her post-marital life.
It is not an easy role to play. However, one is on stage, like it or not, at an event such as a wedding, and the alternative is to play an embittered woman who has lost what she wanted.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black, or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in case of this newspaper .