DEAR MISS MANNERS: My close friend, Celeste, is a wonderful cook and hostess who frequently invites me, and mutual friends, over to her home for meals.
While I love Celeste dearly, her fiance makes me incredibly uncomfortable. She has told me stories in which his behavior is emotionally abusive and controlling. I have also had interactions with him at group events and at her dinner parties that have left me feeling more than unsettled.
I have tried approaching dinner party and other invitations with, “Is this a couples’ party or a girls’ night?” and similar lines to assess whether or not he will be joining. I have since learned that he keeps hidden cameras throughout the home, and watches them when he is not there. He also tracks her whereabouts.
Due to this, I have determined that I will not accept any invitations at her home, and his tracking of her has prevented me from inviting her to my home, so we only meet at public places.
Celeste and I have already had a conversation about his abusiveness; however, I am wondering if there is proper etiquette for discussing my hesitation to accept invitations to her home.
I do not want to lose her as a friend, but I believe consistently declining invitations to her home, while accepting invitations to meet at restaurants and coffee shops, may be turning out to be more offensive.
GENTLE READER: Being supportive of your friends does not, Miss Manners assures you, require you to relinquish your own privacy. “You know that I have concerns about your relationship, but as your friend, I will follow your lead.
However, I will not be videotaped, or tracked in my own home. So while you are in this relationship, I will have to insist on the two of us meeting in public spaces.”
Your friend will have to make her own decision about the situation, but perhaps the insanity of it can be properly conveyed by seeing it from your perspective. And the accompanying panic in your voice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend and I have a shared interest in true crime and art. When she recently asked me if I wanted a collage/painting she had made, I said yes, but I was unpleasantly surprised when I received it.
It turned out to be just a canvas with pictures of a murderer on it, and red paint splattered on it to look like blood. It’s honestly creepy; it looks like a shrine to the killer. I’m interested in the psychology behind crime, and have no positive feelings towards killers themselves.
Currently, the canvas is taking up space in my bedroom, not hung up. Would it be terribly rude to get rid of it? One of the things that bothers me most about it is that clearly, very little effort went into it, and it feels like she was just pawning it off on me.
GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, effort is not the only criterion when it comes to evaluating art — and your friend probably would not take kindly to being accused of lacking it. Miss Manners suggests that you keep the strange painting, displaying it only when your strange friend comes to visit. It might be useful as evidence.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.