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LOOK AMPUTEE WOMAN IN EYE INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON STUMP

Published: Friday, Aug. 16 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

Dear Miss Manners: At our frequent pool parties, barbecues and beach parties, my brother's one-legged wife (she lost her leg above the knee long before my brother married her) shows up wearing a skimpy bathing suit or shorts that leave the stump of her amputated leg fully exposed for everyone to see.

It's not very pleasant to see where a woman's leg was cut off, especially up close, but my amputee sister-in-law couldn't care less who sees her stump uncovered in public. Although she owns an artificial leg, she never wears it but gets around actively on her one leg and crutches and never misses any family affair. At the pool, she often just hops around on one leg.I lose my appetite when I see my one-legged sister-in-law's bare stump of a thigh sticking out in full view. The rest of the family has the same complaint.

When we tell my one-legged sister-in-law this tactfully, she laughs it off and says we'll get used to it. Sometimes she responds, "I'm not ashamed of my stump and don't see why I should hide it. Anyone who doesn't like it doesn't have to look at it."

How can we get my amputee sister-in-law to realize that her stump is repugnant and should be kept covered? My brother is no help in getting his amputee wife to cover her stump, and says that it's just part of her body, even "cute," and we'll have to accept it.

Gentle Reader: How many legs does your sister-in-law have?

Are you sure you described her to Miss Manners vividly and often enough?

She suggests that you learn to look this lady in the eye when you talk to her, which is more respectful than critically assessing her body.

People who wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion - as are bathing suits and shorts at pool, beach and barbecue parties - should not have to concern themselves with whether or not their bodies are aesthetically appealing. It is those who are under the delusion that others are there to please their discerning eyes - and therefore should be banned from view if they are too old, too fat, or fall otherwise short of their standards - who are rude.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I are at a loss in dealing with ex-friends - a couple who became ex-friends due to an unprompted, shocking fit that insulted me beyond belief.

After their refusal to apologize, my husband and I informed them that our friendship was destroyed. They promptly took the opportunity to refuse to repay him the thousands of dollars the man owed him. Sadly, many of us believe that the escape from the debt is the only motive for the entire incident.

The dilemma lies in social gatherings where they and we have been invited. We refuse to bring uninvolved people into something that happened and was settled many months ago, especially at a party celebrating a holiday or a mutual friend's wedding. However, they seem to carry ill will that seems unreasonable, since they were never wronged in the first place.

Gentle Reader: Without acknowledging that there is anything in the world more important than settling an etiquette question, Miss Manners trusts that you have already consulted a lawyer about getting your money back. That anyone should think that rudeness could be used to cancel moral - not to mention legal - obligations is a frightening idea.

The extreme sanction of etiquette is to shun people. As harmless as this may sound in comparison to such legal sanctions as jail and fines, it is a powerful weapon that should not be used lightly. But it does sound justified in this case.

A modified way of using this in order to avoid involving other people - a point of delicacy on your part that Miss Manners appreciates - is merely to turn away when you see these people coming.

Dear Miss Manners: Would it be OK to include an insert in my wedding invitations requesting that all women please refrain from wearing all shades of white?

Gentle Reader: It seems to be awfully difficult for brides to understand that their guests are not subject to their orders. Miss Manners is afraid that no matter how much better you could dress them and select the present they give you than they could themselves, you have to let them use their own judgment.

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