Q. I am returning to Washington soon for a defense position with the incoming administration. Various of Washington's leading socialites have contracted me regarding my move back to the area. The good women have advised me that defense matters are the coming thing, and because of that, many people will seek my attention.
The advice I seek from you, Ma'am, as an acknowledged expert on social relations, is the proper demeanor when a situation involving one's intimate personal life arises at a politically-inspired social affair. Let me explain the situation to you, since it is practically certain that I will be involved in such a problem.
Four years ago, as I was preparing to leave Washington, a woman with whom I had shared a very close relationship initiated some despicable activities and cast me off as so much rubbish. She covered her deeds with a set of lies, put her Republican clothes in the closet, pulled out her Democrat dresses, and spent the last four years acting as if I had never happened.
Among my friends, I have chosen to remain silent on the matter of this particular woman and me. As it is, only a few of my geographically distant friends know that my contempt for her is beyond the limits of our bountiful language.
Being as she is, I know it is now only a matter of months, or weeks, before she will step into my presence at a Washington social gathering. At that point she will attempt to link herself to me in some frivolous manner, so as to maintain her own social rank.
My question is how to communicate to her my desire that she not mess with my body bag. While I can always tell her directly, if that does not work, should I give to her ribs a quiet, subtle blow with my elbow, or should I turn upon her such a verbal flow that she will have no choice but to turn her attentions elsewhere?
A. What you have here is a classic defense problem. Miss Manners hopes you will always remember to try diplomacy before blasting away full strength.
If you attack this lady by the methods you describe, neutral people will assume you are the aggressor, and those who know something about the history will believe you are operating from weakness.
The diplomatic thing to do would be to accept her greeting and return it heartily, taking care to address her enthusiastically by the wrong name. You will find this to be quite destructive enough for the purpose.