Q. I am a 9-year-old girl. My friend (?) across the street is 11. I have lived here for four years, and I've always invited her to my birthday parties. She has always included me in hers, too. That is, until yesterday. She had a party without me!
I know because I saw three girls troop into her house with wrapped presents under their arms. (I don't know who they were because I couldn't find my binoculars. I'm sure they don't live around here, though.)
I am wondering what I should do about this situation. My mom says ignore it, act as if nothing happened, and, above all, "Be a lady," as Miss Manners would wish.
Actually, I want to punch this kid in the nose and inform her she'll never darken my doorway again . . . at least not on my birthday. What do you suggest?
A. It is not incompatible with being a lady "as Miss Manners would wish" to want to punch this kid in the nose. Doing it, however, is. In fact, Miss Manners cannot think of a more succinct definition of a lady than "someone who wants to punch another person in the nose, but doesn't."
You may ask why not. The obvious answer is that blood ruins white gloves. But there are deeper reasons, as well.
Those have to do with the effectiveness of the gesture. Yes, it may make you feel better for a moment, although if your target is two years older than you are, you will not be feeling good for long. But the gesture will not produce the results you really want. It will not get you invited to subsequent parties. It will not make the hostess feel bad; on the contrary, it will convince her that her judgment in excluding you was even wiser than she had thought.
Consider, instead, the likely results of your acting like a lady: You see her in the neighborhood, and give her a friendly wave. ("Whew," she thinks, "she doesn't know that I gave a party.") "I forgot to wish you a happy birthday this year!" you say cheerily. "I hope you had a wonderful birthday." ("Oh, oh," she realizes with a sinking feeling, "she knows.") At the first reasonable opportunity, you say enthusiastically, "I hope you'll come to my party--it wouldn't seem like a birthday without you." ("I shouldn't have done it," she thinks in a paroxysm of guilt. "I'd better invite her soon.")
See how easy that is? You have made her feel terrible and remorseful--and all by behaving like a perfect lady!
And now Miss Manners asks you to listen to a small lecture on the rights and obligations of friendship. The fact is, no matter how much you resent it--and hasn't Miss Manners helped you express that resentment effectively?--your friend has a perfect right to give a party without you.
No person can reasonably expect to be included in all of the social activities of another person. Even the closest of married couples have social engagements, whether lunch with one friend or a gathering of colleagues, for example, in which they see people separately. Certainly, when one gives parties, one cannot always have the same guest list. Your friend may have wanted to have all people of her age this time, or her school class, or some other category into which you did not fit.
Because you are neighbors, this exclusion was obvious to you. Under such accidental circumstances--and your friend cannot be expected to hire another house to spare your feelings--the proper thing to do is to ignore what you were not meant to observe. A lady finds, as she sails through life, that she can spare herself a great deal of anguish by not taking notice of unpleasant occurrences that were not intended for her notice.