DEAR AMY: One of my female family members -- unmarried and in her 50s -- recently disclosed to our large family that she has been having an affair with a married man for 30-plus years. They met while she was in college (he worked at her university), and he has one adult daughter. He is in his 70s. Her announcement was prompted by the recent death of his wife. Now they are public about their relationship, attending family weddings, sending gifts, etc., as a couple. Shortly after their relationship became known openly, she announced that they were engaged. Their wedding and her bridal shower are both being planned. My family and I have already been asked to save the dates. She is an adult and is free to make her own choices; it's really none of my business. My dilemma is this: I do not want to be a part of the shower or the wedding. I feel that while the intent is for these events to be a celebration, they are a disrespectful spectacle; their infidelity is now public only because his wife has passed away. I don't want to take a dramatic stance in any of this. I just want to avoid it altogether. Any suggestions?
DEAR DISAPPROVING: If you want to avoid drama, then you should also avoid harsh judgment. If it is possible for you to forgive your relative for her decades-long involvement in an extramarital affair, you should do so. You presumably don't know the circumstances behind this affair and -- spun differently -- your relative seems like someone who has been profoundly patient. Would you wish to deny her the fullness of happiness now? It is quite easy to decline an invitation without making a statement designed to ramp up the drama. You simply respond politely that you will not be able to make it to the festivities. You do not need to supply a reason.
However, please realize that life is both short and complicated. People sometimes make baffling choices. But the legitimizing of a relationship between two consenting and legally available adults seems like a good thing, even if you don't approve of how they got there.
DEAR AMY: Before winter break, my 12-year-old son wanted to do something nice for his teachers during the "time of giving," and he baked cookies that he made from scratch (sweet!). He created decorative bags, handmade name tags and had them placed in his teachers' mailbox area. I was amazed that only one out of the eight wrote him a thank-you note. I have taught my children that receipt of a gift from someone always deserves a handwritten thank-you. It takes but four sentences, can be written in six minutes (or less) and speaks volumes of appreciation for someone's thoughtfulness, time and generosity. He was touched by the one teacher's kindness. This incident made me notice that we are becoming a very wanting but truly thankless society, and I find it sad. I was assuming teachers would set a better example. Am I old-fashioned?
DEAR THANKFUL: I agree that a written thank-you warms the heart and also inspires greater generosity, but a verbal expression of thanks is acceptable too. Did any of these other teachers seek out your son to thank him for his extreme thoughtfulness? I hope so. Is he certain that his sweet treats actually reached their recipients? Your son is both kind and clever and I hope you continue to encourage him to express himself in this way, regardless of how others respond.
DEAR AMY: I'm responding to the letter from "Furious Dad," who drove to visit family at Christmas only to find out that his hosts' child was sick. Others quickly caught the bug. I immediately thought there were choices he apparently didn't consider, like heading to a hotel, to politely take the strain off his hosts, or making a fast exit and driving back home.
DEAR SUE: Your solutions are great but more challenging because all of this happened over Christmas. But yes, this beats everyone getting sick.