DEAR MISS MANNERS: Most of our friends, married or not, have embarked on the task of producing children. This means I am invited to multitudes of baby showers, sometimes more than one for each baby.
I disapprove of baby showers for two reasons: First, we are in a global resource crisis, and people, especially Americans, should have fewer children; and second, showers encourage wasteful consumerism, when the mother can easily obtain hand-me-downs for her rapidly growing child.
I am alarmed at the number of otherwise intelligent people who, despite this being the First World with forms of birth control widely available, still have unplanned pregnancies and make no secret of this fact.
The majority of my friends' pregnancies have been associated with shotgun weddings, underwater home mortgages, or conception occurring after the loss of the father's job.
For these reasons and others, I am not thrilled when my friends become pregnant. I love my friends, but once they have kids, they fall off the face of the earth. It makes me sad to lose my friends and watch them throw away their promising careers and lives to enter the black hole of babydom.
Given this, it seems inappropriate for me to attend baby showers. My friends are familiar with my views on reproduction. I am happy to help my friends in other ways -- come over and do the household chores for a day, for instance. But is there a polite way to decline to attend a friend's shower?
GENTLE READER: Yes. It is: "Thank you so much for the invitation, but I will not be able to attend."
Miss Manners notices that being familiar with your views did not deter your friends from having children, so you needn't feel neglectful about refraining from repeating them after the fact.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister and brother-in-law are going through a very bitter divorce. We have since found out that he is a liar and a cheater, and a man without honor.
There will be times in the future that we are attending the same social function (graduation, wedding, etc.). How do I show my disdain for this man without being considered rude? What if he should approach me to speak? What if he is with someone? What if he is with the woman that has contributed to the breakup of the marriage?
GENTLE READER: A divorce, like a funeral, has many mourners but few principals. (Miss Manners has noticed that participants in a divorce sometimes also divest themselves of their principles, but that is a separate topic.)
Proper responses can range from a cold aloofness to a deliberate snub, but as your grievance is subsidiary to your sister's, your behavior should follow her lead, without exceeding it in severity. Even then, it must be done quietly, so that your reaction will not attract the attention of other guests. Please remember that your primary obligation at such events is to avoid spoiling them with the fallout from less happy situations.