Graciously Responding to Someone Who Has Treated You Poorly In The Past

Here is an anonymous email asking for advice on a subject that I am sure we all deal with in our lives. 

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

Recently I was in a restaurant and I noticed a man kept looking over at me. I didn’t recognize him and kept on with my conversation. Suddenly, I noticed he was approaching the table. He stood near my seat and said ,”I wanted to come over and say hello. Do you recognize me?” I didn’t. He then said , “Weren’t you in the class of 1996 at Stamford High School? Didn’t you go on the senior trip to the Jersey Shore?” It was then my heart dropped. This was the guy that I had a huge crush on in school, the man that I childishly pursued. His way of handling it 20 some odd years ago was to humiliate me and make fun of me publicly. 

I was polite and made small talk for a few minutes. He seemed really happy to see me and as though he forgot all of the strangeness from school. Also, I  felt bad for him because time wasn’t kind to him and he has lost his looks. But I wonder if I should have been less than polite to him? 

Thank you.

Dearest Emailer, I am more concerned about the way this man approached you in public than with how you handled yourself, but perhaps I will touch upon that in another post. To answer your question about your own reaction, this is what I feel.

It will never be incorrect to be polite to someone in the circumstances that you detail. No doubt, in the two decades since you have left high school, you have grown as an individual and would never remake the mistakes of youth. You were right to give him the benefit of the doubt and be polite, after all he has no doubt moved on from the follies of his youth. He may not remember the situation from school the same way that you do. I feel that since he made an effort to come to speak to you, then he was happy he had seen you. I feel you handled things nicely in a surprise situation.

I do believe, however, that there is nothing wrong with taking secret delight in the fact that someone who was once rude to you “lost his looks” as you say. In fact, I believe you should be most pleased that you looked enough the same that someone who knew you so long ago would still recognize you. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Best Mannerly Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

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