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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Make an appearance, but make it count

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an introvert. I do not enjoy large gatherings of people. Perhaps this is social anxiety, or perhaps I am simply plagued by misanthropy. Because of my preferences, I generally avoid large parties: To others, a large room full of jollity is a joy. To me, it is a chore.

We soon approach the holiday season, with the usual cavalcade of celebrations. I intend to avoid as many of these as possible. However, personal or professional obligations inevitably compel attendance at one or two events.

I am generally happiest if I am seen at the event (thus meeting my obligation), but then left to myself, preferably in a quiet corner where no one will bother me, and I will bother no one else. Is there a graceful way to execute this without engendering accusations of rudeness or interfering with others’ ability to enjoy the event?

GENTLE READER: Seeing someone standing in the corner completely discouraging all human contact is likely to be a mood-killer. Instead, perhaps you could tell your hosts that you would love to stop by, but unfortunately can only do so for a moment.

Miss Manners warns, however, that if you are only making an appearance, you must make it count and engage in some sort of interaction – even if it is just to say a kind word to the other introvert who is cowering in the corner.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a retired professional woman who chose not to have children. Whenever I meet someone new or attend a women’s group, I’m asked, with all due respect, “How many children do you have?”

I consider this question too personal and don’t know how to politely say, “It’s none of your business!” How do I respond without sounding snarky?

GENTLE READER: Especially since “It’s none of your business” has the added implication that there are too many children to count. Instead, Miss Manners suggests, “Oh dear, I knew I forgot something!” with a sly smile and a quick change of subject.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: After I had been at a new company for two weeks, the supervisor sent me an email that was clearly something copied and pasted. It began with, “Dear NAME,” which he forgot to change to my name. Is there a polite way to make him aware of this so that he does not do it again? I doubt it will make employees feel valued, as I was rather hurt by it. I considered responding with “Dear NAME, Thanks,” but held my tongue – or fingers, in this case.

GENTLE READER: You showed restraint. However, as you rightly pointed out, it would be kind to save him from future embarrassment.

“Dear Sir, I seemed to have received a letter for the wrong person. I would be happy to forward this to Mr. Name. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him, but sadly, it seems that now I am too late.”

Miss Manners is loath to add the use of an emoticon to punctuate the sentiment, but if ever there were a time to show that you mean it kindly and in jest, this would be it.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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