DEAR MISS MANNERS: Jenny and I are older divorced women. I have no family; she is like a sister and is among the single and married friends who invite me to spend the holidays with their families.
I was Jenny’s only local friend to attend the out-of-town service and wake for her own sister. At my table, Jenny’s nephew-in-law assumed a truly nasty expression and asked: “Do you and Jenny live together? No? Do you live close to each other? No? But you travel together? How did you meet?”
I ignored the innuendo and just answered straight. However, I wish I had a good comeback to “out” him for his rudeness! I felt like saying, “If we WERE lesbians, as you seem to imply, wouldn’t we be a great couple!”
GENTLE READER: Suppose you had, and the nephew-in-law had replied in a loud voice, “Lesbians? That never occurred to me”?
That’s the trouble with innuendo: It is deniable. Nasty look or not, his questions were within the realm of common social nosiness, which he could defend as an attempt to show interest and start a conversation.
He did not ask about your sex life. It is you who would have opened that subject. It is as if one had asked a straight lady and gentleman if they were married – which is somewhat intrusive – and they had responded that they are not sleeping together, which is way too revealing for polite conversation.
All the same, Miss Manners recognizes that you want to squelch the speculation that may well have prompted those questions. You could do this by saying, “We’re a couple of friends, but not a couple.” If you wanted to tweak him, you already did, simply by answering the surface questions with no further information to satisfy his presumed curiosity.