Q.Seven years ago, when my husband was 34, he decided to change careers and go to law school. We financed the change by liquidating all our assets and selling our house. I returned to school also and then got pregnant, so when he became a lawyer, we had a 10-month-old daughter and no money.
He is now doing very well, working in a Silicon Valley firm. His prospects are excellent, and he enjoys his work. The problem is that the people we meet who are our age are financially established, while we're raising our daughters in a two-bedroom apartment and are still struggling to make ends meet.
It is difficult to reciprocate when we are entertained, although that isn't a barrier to seeing good friends. But I have difficulty with some of the people I've met, through play groups and preschool, whose children play with mine.
Some people ask me almost every time we meet when we're going to buy a house, or comment on what a shame it is that we don't live in one. The worst offenders are people who've made money in real estate and behave as if they invented capitalism. They suggest that we don't understand the real estate market and are incapable of acting in our own interests.
At a children's birthday party recently, the host interrupted a conversation about houses to ask if the topic depressed me. Then he turned to the (now silent) guests and said, "Debbie lives in a two-bedroom apartment."
We live as we feel we can afford to live. We have a happy family life, and have had nothing but compliments on our two daughters, now 2 and 4 1/2. I don't feel they'll be adversely affected by living in an apartment for a few more years, nor do I feel that this should concern anyone else.
At the same party, I mentioned that I planned to return to my journalism career next year. Another mother said, "What? You mean writing for a newspaper?" and wrinkled her nose. "Why don't you go into television? That's where the money is." I said that wasn't what I wanted to do. "Well," she shrugged, "if you're happy . . ."
I'm sure our problems are aggravated because we live in Silicon Valley, where people have high incomes and indulge in ostentatious displays of wealth. Nevertheless, I'm really tired of such treatment. It would be difficult to stop seeing some of these people, partly because they're friends, but why should I put up with them?
A.Why, indeed? If you insist upon considering such people friends, there is a perfectly polite way to show them that they are terribly rude in presuming to teach you how to run your life, and are only succeeding in demonstrating how shallow their values are.
Listen to their remarks, and then, with a wistful smile as if you were admitting to some lack, say, "Now that you mention it, I suppose a great many people do find that they need a lot of money or an expensive house to be happy. I don't know why, but we just never felt it was all that important."
That should make them good and ashamed.
Q.When my ex-husband and I divorced, all the relatives were on his side except a widowed sister-in-law and one brother and his wife. They were the only ones who talked to me or had anything to do with me.
My ex and I have talked about getting together again. I told him I would be embarrassed to face those who turned away. He said I should not be like that, as they were the ones who did the turning away, the reason being that they did not want to hear about our breakup.
Am I wrong about my feelings -- am I being silly? Should I be the one to make the first move?
A.Yes. You have some experience at forgiving and starting over.
It is surely easier to overlook mere family loyalty than something you once considered bad enough to justify a divorce. Why don't you invite them all to a celebration of your renewed happiness and tell them you're glad to have them as family again?
And by the way, aren't you glad now that they did refuse to hear your side of the breakup? Had you reported whatever you then found intolerable in your husband, to his very own family, Miss Manners doubts that you would now have any etiquette problems in connection with a remarriage.