DEAR MISS MANNERS: At events I’m often coerced into having my picture taken with others. Inevitably those next to me reach out to hug me for the photo, I’m sure expecting me to hug them in return.
I don’t want to hug or be hugged, but this has somehow become the norm for photos, as if we’re all some bonded tribe that must show our brotherhood for the camera. And if I’m wearing a suit, the jacket is raised up and makes for a terrible shot.
My theory is that the practice is an outgrowth of the festive “party pics” of the ’80s where the subject was keen to show how much fun she/he was having and how much love was shared. I know; I was once one of them.
Regardless, I would like to stand and have my picture taken if I must, without being hugged by the stranger next to me. May I say, “Thanks but no hugging, please?”
GENTLE READER: Or worse. Some public figures have gotten themselves in trouble by thinking that picture-taking is an excuse to get to know their subjects better.
Photographers should take the lead here and learn to distinguish between getting people closer for a better shot and forcing people to touch. If this is not established beforehand or the subjects do not pay attention, Miss Manners advocates for the well-timed yelp of surprise. This alerts everyone that there is a problem and allows for an opportunity to announce the aforementioned no hugging policy to all.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The other day, I apologized for being in someone’s way at the grocery store. He smiled and said that he, himself, had been hung over before.
I think I smiled wanly and avoided eye contact when I had to navigate past him on the same shopping trip. It was an off-putting encounter – should I have done anything else?
GENTLE READER: Responded to the accusation with, “Have you? What’s it like?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I call my brother once or twice a month, he can never talk to me without interrupting to scold, correct or coach his child (age 10) – not once, but multiple times in a 10-minute call.
When I ask for a better time to call, brother will offer no guidance. I think it is disrespectful to me as a caller and to his child as the supposed benefactor of his interventions.
My brother likes to say, “Welcome to my life,” “I’m multitasking” or some other blow-off if I ask for a little concentration to our call at hand. The alternative seems to be not to call. He would probably not notice if I stopped calling him.
GENTLE READER: Next time you call, ask to speak to your nephew directly and see if the boy manages any better. You will likely get a more entertaining account of the family’s goings-on and a less interrupted call.
If this backfires, however, and you find yourself at the end of an abandoned phone, Miss Manners recommends letter-writing. What it lacks in immediacy, it gains in maintaining train of thought.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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