DEAR MISS MANNERS - We discovered early this year that a former co-worker had been involved in an affair with a married man whose wife had just given birth (and by just, I mean in the hours immediately before one of their dalliances). This affair continued for several months, and on more than one occasion the co-worker lied about her business-travel plans in order to spend time with this man, leaving her team members in the lurch.
The affair is now common knowledge, and the co-worker has moved on to a position with another company. Recently, she returned for an office visit, and a couple of us decided to put forward a front so cold it would rival winter in the Yukon. We wanted her to realize that we are not only aware of her indiscretions, but we absolutely do not approve.
Others in the office have chastised us because they don't feel she has committed an offense since she did not sleep with their husbands. Those of us on the chilly side feel her behavior was a sign of a significant lack of character.
Miss Manners, should we just overlook her behavior, as we were not personally affected?
GENTLE READER - If people never expressed social disapproval except in cases in which they were personally involved, society would be in a bad way. And when they do, it is often in a worse way.
That is to say that social standards are maintained by a show of disapproval when violated. If there is no apparent public interest in how badly people behave, behavior in general keeps getting worse. And yet a great deal of cruelty and, indeed, outright injustice has been directed at individuals under this mandate.
That is likely why your colleagues shy away from registering disapproval. However, this does appear to Miss Manners to be a sound case. Proving affairs is dicey, even when everybody seems to know, because there are seldom eyewitnesses. But you know of her cheating on the job, and that does constitute an offense against those of you who had to fill in for her. It is also an offense against the standards of the office. A warm welcome would indeed suggest otherwise.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - My next-door neighbor sent an e-mail to ask me to keep an eye on their home while they were on vacation. She also told me that X, who works at the same school as her husband and lives farther away than I do in the same subdivision, has the key to their house. She provided me with X's phone number just in case. "Thanks a lot, blah blah blah..." By the way, there are no pets to feed and no plants to water in my neighbors' home.
What do you make of this? What would you do?
GENTLE READER - Wish the neighbor a happy vacation. Watch the neighbor's house while she is away. Welcome the neighbor home when she returns.
What puzzles Miss Manners is why you have any question about the right thing to do. Perhaps the request would be better made in person, but you are not being asked to inconvenience yourself by any specific form of care taking. Miss Manners begs you to understand that this is a basic courtesy that neighbors owe one another.
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