Dear Miss Manners: A good friend is getting divorced. A select few of us are very close to her, but she has decided not to tell us she’s getting divorced. She has been married only a year and a half, and this divorce, which we heard about from her soon-to-be ex-husband, was a total shock to all of us.

Several weeks have passed, she has moved in with her parents, and we have all been together with her – and she still acts like nothing is going on.

It’s making us all uncomfortable, and it’s like an elephant in the room. Do we ask if everything is OK, or try to talk to her, or just let her tell us when it works for her?

Gentle Reader: Please bear in mind that it is not your elephant. It is your friend’s, and she may be hoping that it will galumph out of the room before anyone notices it. So her friends’ task is to pretend they haven’t noticed it.

Miss Manners realizes that the chance of a reconciliation is not good when the husband is announcing a divorce.

Still, it is possible, and if that happens, friends who have commiserated with one spouse will find that marital loyalty then kicks in, as well as the desire to classify the separation as a mere blip in the marriage. In that case, your pre-emptive sympathy would be held against you.

Dealing with dirty hands

Dear Miss Manners: My daughter has a boyfriend who works in a tire shop. He handles and works with tires daily, so he gets very dirty and his hands are black from work. They stopped by the other day, and he came in the house and touched my cabinets, and then apologized for leaving smudges on the counter.

Before I could stop myself, I asked him, “Don’t they have a sink at work?” He indicated they did, and that was the end of the discussion.

I don’t want him or my daughter to feel unwelcome, but I want to take care of my things. Any suggestions on how I can approach this?

Gentle Reader: As a hostess, not a nanny. Therefore offer to help, not to teach, and certainly not to scold.

That means welcoming him and saying hospitably: “I suppose you’d like to wash up after working so hard. There are fresh towels for you in the bathroom.”

Miss Manners recommends that you be on the alert to do this before the gentleman has had a chance to touch anything, and lay in a supply of dark towels.

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