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Miss Manners, Judith Martin, Published August 18 2012

Miss Manners: Hypocrisy has a role to play in maintaining family harmony

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I really do not like the choice my son made in picking a wife. He is aware of this, but still is going to marry her.

Do I have to like her, and how can I be pleasant without being a hypocrite?

GENTLE READER: You do hypocrisy an injustice. Compared to antagonizing your prospective daughter-in-law, it is a virtue.

It is the rare family in which all harmony is spontaneous. When everyone in your family gathers, say at a wedding or for a holiday dinner, do all those kisses and declarations of happiness at seeing one another come straight from the heart?

The difference here is that you harbored the illusion that you might be able to keep this lady from becoming a family member. Now you know that you cannot. So it is in your own interest not to alienate someone who will be on more intimate terms than you with your son, and certainly with any future grandchildren of yours.

Miss Manners has no way of knowing how good an actress you are, but you should start practicing. The first exercise could be saying privately to your son, “I’m afraid I might have misjudged her” (as indeed you might have). “Tell me about her, and what made you fall in love with her.” You then use whatever material about her interests and strengths he gives you to open a conversation with her, in which you mostly listen.

Wait – Miss Manners knows what you are still thinking. Don’t for one moment believe that you can satisfy your true feelings by sprinkling little digs beneath the surface politeness.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.