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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Manners don’t require catering to prejudice

Judith Martin And Nicholas Ivor Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My spouse and I married out of state in 2010, after several happy years together, because our home state does not recognize same-sex marriage.

He works in the arts; I am a lawyer. We attend many social and artistic events and have a wide circle of accepting friends.

However (ironically, I think, given our respective careers), I am much more apt to introduce him as my spouse with new acquaintances. He either haltingly introduces me as his “partner,” or worse yet, ignores me altogether, even when I am standing right next to him.

He has attempted to excuse this by explaining that it is “not personal” and that he does not wish to render uncomfortable people whose views he does not yet know.

I have responded that it is indeed personal, since it is happening to me, and that the potential prejudices of strangers are not to be catered to; if they are offended, they can excuse themselves and find other people with whom to chat.

GENTLE READER: Struggles for civil rights focus their energy first on achieving equality before the law. But as you have discovered, that does not mean the etiquette will automatically follow.

Good manners do not always require that you make those around you comfortable by catering to their possible prejudices. Of course spouses should be introduced as such. Miss Manners hopes that the worst thing your spouse is seeking to avoid by his behavior is a polite but cold response.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: As I’m sure you know, Southerners like myself address everyone we meet that we are not on a first-name basis with as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” I travel to the North on business quite a bit and am occasionally joshed about that with good humor and occasionally not-so-good humor. How should I respond to such attempts at correction, or should I respond at all?

GENTLE READER: “Oh, sorry. It’s a term of respect, but if you tell me it’s not warranted in your case, of course I’ll stop.”

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