Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Mother-in-law insists toddler should be present for funeral
Washington: My husband's maternal grandfather passed away, and the funeral is tomorrow. My mother-in-law wants our toddler to attend the service. Though I will be at the service (I got a babysitter), my son will not. He's too little to act appropriately, and it's right in the middle of his nap time. If I did bring him, I know I would end up walking around outside with a cranky toddler. My mother-in-law thinks her father would have wanted him there. I'm at my wit's end. She's too emotional to think rationally. Should I just suck it up and bring my son?
Carolyn: If it's local, maybe you can bring the sitter with you to the service, and sit close to an exit. Or you can ask the church about helping you find a sitter among its congregants. That way, if your son acts up, the sitter whisks him out and takes him for a stroll, which, with any luck, will turn into a nap.
In other words, while your mother-in-law might not be thinking rationally, the rational thing to do is make her happy. The rest is just logistics.
Woman disagrees with married friend's engagement to mistress
Portland, Ore.: How do you respond to a marriage proposal that you completely disagree with? My good friend proposed to his mistress of two years. A "confirmed" date is set for less than one year out. He is recently separated from his current wife but with no divorce in sight because of financial hardships.
It has been a nasty separation that didn't need to be, due to mistress' involvement. I dislike her (as do many others because she is manipulative and controlling), and his relationship with her over the past two years has severely hindered our relationship.
The wedding has been discussed, but I have been mute with any interest or congratulations. Does proper etiquette dictate that I must congratulate them, or do I have valid reasons for ignoring his engagement?
Carolyn: I am non-answering your question with another question. What's up with your "good" friend? Is he just drifting off-course with no correction in sight, or are you among the last to deduce that he's either morally mildewed, a complete tool, or both?
If you're ready for the consequences, you could say: "For obvious reasons, I can't pretend I'm happy to hear this news."
Second best is ignoring it unless he calls you on your non-response.
Third best is the insincere "Congratulations." That kind of rubber-stamp civility, though, is best saved for people with whom you have no real relationship, an acquaintance or a colleague you only kind of know.
Then again, given your friend's apparent determination to make this relationship official, it might be time to demote him to the ranks of people with whom you have no real relationship.
Anonymous: For the guy marrying his mistress by mistake: "Good luck!"
Carolyn: Duh. That's perfect, thanks.