Dear Miss Manners:
As executor to the estate of my recently deceased father, I have discovered "skeletons" that were never divulged. It seems my father was married to another woman for several years before he divorced and was married to my mother for 25 years.
Although my mother is now deceased as well, I'm quite certain no one was ever aware of this -- leading me to believe it was his decision for this to never go public.
To throw another twist in the story, he fathered a child with his first wife. I have a biological half sister out there somewhere.
My take on it is that the half sister is just that -- purely biological. Although curiosity does get me a little, we share no past and she may not even be aware of my father's existence. It would not be proper of me to pursue this. My brothers, as well, need not know about my discovery, and the papers should find the shredder.
Yours is an unpopular view nowadays, and there is much to be said for it.
And Miss Manners promises you that much will be said against it. It is commonly thought now that there should be no family secrets, and that you owe it to your siblings, both known and unknown, to disclose everything you know about the family.
However, you have been charged by your father to carry out his wishes, and it does seem clear that he did not wish his previous marriage to be known to his second family.
It is not for Miss Manners to take part in this very personal moral dilemma of yours. Some lives may have been enriched by such disclosures, and others may have been ruined. The only help she can offer is to let you know that you are not alone in thinking that discretion can be a virtue.
Dear Miss Manners:
The daughter of a friend of mine is preparing for her marriage next June. There are all the traditional events: the showers, the rehearsal and dinner, the bridesmaids' luncheon, etc., ad nauseam.
However, said daughter is miffed at her mother for her refusal to attend one new event. The event? Could you possibly believe prenuptial tattoos?
I am serious. This child had invited friends and loved ones of both families to witness the application of permanent tattoos on the prospective bride and groom! (I should point out that neither family belongs to an ethnic group that has supported tattooing in any form any later than the early Iron Age.) One hopes this particular event on the nuptial calendar dies an early death.
And that the marriage lasts. Painful as the tattoo-watching party must be, Miss Manners believes that it has to be better than the party they would throw in connection with the removal.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin