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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Veteran has no need to explain injury

Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a female disabled veteran of the Gulf War era. I walk with a cane (and sometimes use a wheelchair) due to injuries I sustained in 1995 while serving in the Army.

Most people are pretty kind about my disabilities, but I am getting rather frustrated with complete strangers asking me about it. I’ve never heard anyone ask disabled elders why they are walking with a cane; why do they think it is any less rude to ask a younger person?

I work as a veterans advocate for my local government and cannot keep telling people my story, as it is considered inappropriate to talk about your own case with clients. Nor can I be rude and tell them it is none of their business, as I am expected to be polite and helpful to my clients at all times.

I’ve tried being funny and making jokes about it, and I’ve tried telling them it’s a service-connected disability that I’d rather not talk about. Neither way seems to completely satisfy their curiosity.

What is a polite way to tell them to mind their own business without having to get into the details?

GENTLE READER: The professional version is easy. You say firmly, “We are here to discuss your case,” and immediately address a question to the client. There is no reason to have any personal conversation beyond the simplest pleasantries.

What’s harder is when someone you meet socially is clumsy enough to ask. Then Miss Manners suggests you say, “Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine. Are you all right?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation for a discussion relating to my field of work. The invitation states, “To facilitate meaningful educational discussions, guests will not be accommodated.” What does “guests will not be accommodated” mean?

GENTLE READER: It means don’t bring guests. But Miss Manners would think you would not do that anyway, because it sounds as if the meeting will be unnecessarily long and tedious, with 10 words used when three will do.