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FRIENDS DISAPPROVE OF NEW COMPANION

Dear Miss Manners: Almost a year ago, my wife died very suddenly. Through the help of family and friends, I survived a difficult time. Through my own efforts and theirs, I began attending social functions.

I am now seeing someone I like very much. She is attractive, bright and about to receive a professional degree. She is also 19 years younger than I; furthermore, we formerly worked in the same office.My friends, who were also close to my deceased wife, are rude to my new companion. They seem to make an effort to ignore her, never acknowledging her in conversation and generally giving her the cold shoulder.

One friend implied to me privately that this woman was too young for me and could not be sincerely interested in my companionship. Just this week, there has been gossip that my new relationship is really a continuation of one that started before my wife's death, while my new friend and I were co-workers. This is totally false and has hurt me a great deal.

I am resisting the inclination to return the rudeness in kind and write off as friends the people who have said these things. I do feel I owe them a great deal, because of my long friendship with them and the consideration they showed me during my bereavement. What is the proper behavior for me at this time?

Gentle Reader: Friends who comfort one during bereavement, when one might otherwise be isolated, are indeed to be treasured. But those who seek to prolong the bereavement, and promote indefinite isolation, are not so helpful.

Of course, you don't want to be rude back. What you want, if possible, is to make them see that you want to keep them as friends but that this will only be possible if they graciously accept your new friend. Never mind defending yourself about when you began going out, or whether she loves you for yourself. None of that should be open to debate.

The only point to be made is that they must accept your judgment. You might make this point in the following sly but effective manner:

"You know, all those years we were married, I thought you people really liked Franny."

Chorus of protests: "Of course - we loved Franny!" with the boldest adding, "That's why we don't want to see you throw yourself away on Jeannie."

"Well, I thought you cared for Franny, but now I have my doubts. You never know what people say behind your back. There must be a reason you don't trust my judgment about women."

Chorus: "No, no, no, we thought Franny was terrific; it's just Jeannie we don't think is right for you."

"To me, it's a question of my friends trusting my judgment. I picked a wonderful wife for myself, and I would have felt highly insulted if anybody had tried to be friends with me without being friends with Franny. And now I've been lucky enough to find another wonderful woman."

Chorus: Silence.

"Jeannie and I will always be happy to see you."

Dear Miss Manners: One of my brothers is about to be married to a woman I liked very much when we met. Since then, however, I have become appalled.

I observed her and her friends doing the "white glove test" at a dinner party.

She has asked my parents to pay half the wedding costs (her parents have encouraged her to reduce her expectations).

She called my mother to ask exactly what her future in-laws will give as a wedding present and, when told, said, "Oh, I guess that will be OK."

I have been making a quilt and, when the quilt top was done, she strongly suggested that I make the two-hour round trip for her to inspect it.

Everything is done with a cheerful voice and pleasant smile, but that makes her behavior no more appealing. I wish to be polite, but my stress level increases with each encounter. The wedding is three months away.

Gentle Reader: Three months seems sufficient time for you, and perhaps your parents as well, to have a cozy little chat with your brother. It should go something like this:

"Tiffany is such a lovely person, dear; we're all so happy for you. We're so much looking forward to having her in the family. I'm sure that she'll soon get used to our ways. But perhaps - since we don't want to get off on the wrong foot with her - you'd better tell her about us. As you know, we'd like you both to have lovely things, but we can't really see paying for a lavish wedding. And we felt funny about being asked about our presents. Tell her to have a little more faith in our desire to welcome her, even if she doesn't find us able to be as generous as you may have led her to expect. The quilt is a labor of love, but it's really not reasonable to make a special trip to have it inspected. Tell her I want her to be happy with it, but I just don't have that kind of leisure. Darling, I hope you didn't make her think we were rich or had unlimited free time. But what we do have is lots of love to give your wife; see if you can make her understand that."

Dear Miss Manners: When one wears an ankle bracelet with nylon stockings, should the bracelet be worn over or under the nylons?

Gentle Reader: There are few errors of taste that so immediately carry their own punishments as the ankle bracelet worn with stockings. Miss Manners might be inclined to suggest putting this item under the stockings, just to emphasize the point, but she cannot bring herself to recommend that one do anything with ankle bracelets other than to wear them on the wrist.

In a dilemma about giving or receiving presents? Help is available in Miss Manners' "Present-Giving" pamphlet. Send $1.50, plus a long self-addressed stamped envelope, to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions except through this column.