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Miss Manners: Gay man defends against busybodies

Fri., July 9, 2010, midnight

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I am a 26-year-old man living near my family, with whom I have very close relationships. This often brings me into contact with their friends, many of whom I have never met or are acquaintances at best.

What is a polite way for me, as an openly gay man, to address their questions about girlfriends or girls I’m dating?

I’ve been “out of the closet” for years and feel it is appropriate to be known for who I am. I’ve been accused of “pushing an agenda,” which annoys me, because I’ve never proceeded with these people to divisive topics like gay equality. I’ve also never told children (of friends, cousins, etc.) of my sexuality when asked similar questions, as I assume most people would appreciate my discretion in these instances.

It is important to me, and all gay people, that I live an honest and open life. But I feel at times that people interpret my honesty as unnecessary and intentionally inappropriate.

GENTLE READER – People you hardly know are asking about your love life and then accusing you of being pushy if you respond?

Miss Manners sees this as yet another reason, among many, not to attempt to satisfy busybodies. Such people think of themselves as showing a commendable interest in others, but the interest nearly always turns out to be in critiquing the way others lead their lives.

And it is amazing how many people think that a charming conversation opener with the younger generation is “So, are you seeing anyone?” or the ever-popular “Why aren’t you married?”

Generally, the response from those who are nice enough not to return this rudeness in kind is to answer vaguely (“Not at the moment” or “Haven’t met the right person”) and then to change the subject – or, better yet, to escape.

But Miss Manners would hardly blame you for giving matter-of-fact answers (“Yes, I have a boyfriend” or “I haven’t met the right man”) followed by “But enough about me – tell me about yourself.””

Should there be shock, complaints or further questions, your response should be, “But didn’t you just ask me?” followed by the all-important change-of-subject.

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