Q. I was getting ready to write a four-page letter during a fit of anger, but, luckily for me, I read your advice to people who feel like writing such letters, and I hung out my laundery to dry instead.
However, I would like to hear your advice on how to handle future fits. My anger was directed at someone with whom I became involved and who ended the realtionship after our first major disagreement.
I won't go on about how promising the relationship really was, since it was so easy for him to end it. I would like to remain friends with him. He is pleasant to me; we work together and live in the same neighborhood.
But when I hear about or see his (quickly acquired) new girlfriend, I am strongly tempted to blow it all and tell him (and her) to go to hell. I have tried long walks, cooking and cleaning sprees, complaining to friends, but sometimes I'm too tired or it's too late at night.
I realize my situation is common, but that doesn't help the anguish. Am I trying too hard to stay civil? Do you have any different suggestions to pull out of your hat? Maybe letting the air out of their tires when she is visiting him?
A. In Miss Manner's book (or hat), there is no such thing as trying too hard to stay civil. It is a noble effort that should never be abandoned. Fortunately, it need not interfere with the natural desire to inflict suffering on others, especially in retaliation for exquisite suffering of a romantic nature.
First, you must allow Miss Manners to direct your angry attention away from the current girlfriend. It is frequent error, particularly on the part of women, to misdirect hostility toward the rival, thus lightening the load against the true culprit, without whom no rival could exist.
Next, Miss Manners must get your mind away from the tires. There are too many randomly inspired hoodlums on the street to make such a gesture carry its proper symbolic weight.
You have already become aware how much pain it causes to see a recent romantic attachment -- or a remote one, for that matter -- happily paired off with another. Why waste this knowledge?
Neither should you waste the energy engendered by your unhappiness, although Miss Manners has nothing against cleaning sprees and breeze-dried laundry.
Use it to put on a little play for your former bueu and his current love. This will consist of showing them a face shining with secret happiness, muffled telephone calls at your place of work, a general air of mysterious radiance and, most important of all, a great warm magnanimity directed to them both, since it is their new arrangement that made this possible. This will keep you occupied in your restlessness and distracted from your unhappiness. It will please Miss Manners, because it is civil. And it will kill them -- as you well know.