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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Saturday, March 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Make conversation, not judgments

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: During a conversation regarding table manners, a relative and I disagreed on what to do if one notices a minor infraction, like someone using the wrong fork for the salad course. The relative thought we should all use the wrong fork so as to not make the other diner uncomfortable. I thought one should just pretend not to notice, and continue using the correct fork. What does Miss Manners suggest?

GENTLE READER: That all of you stop monitoring one another’s eating habits.

The person who used the salad fork for the meat course will be just fine using the meat fork for the salad course. And while etiquetteers are popularly believed to be insane on the subject of fork selection, the truth is that Miss Manners would rather indulge in conversation at the dinner table than peer at other people’s plates.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please help me out! I am often not able to remember people’s names after we have been introduced. It is a medical problem that I can’t fix, and which is not readily apparent to most people.

I had cancer some years ago, went through aggressive treatment protocols and emerged with what is commonly called “chemo brain,” a condition that impairs the short-term memory processes necessary to learn new information. I participated in a trial study at a well-regarded research facility, which tested various ways to mitigate the effects of chemo brain. All participants had to undergo a battery of tests before being accepted into the trial, so I know my problem is real, not “emotional” or due to laziness.

Please do not suggest I try the common memory tricks; I already do those, and I take notes as often as I practically can, along with carrying my smartphone everywhere.

The challenge is that I am a consultant who meets multiple new clients every week, often on chaotic worksites. I do not always have the opportunity to take notes immediately, and those short-term memories sometimes just disappear.

Please help me figure out what to say when I have forgotten someone’s name within minutes of having heard it! I know this is having a subtle, but genuine, negative effect on my career. It is beyond medical science to repair the damage at this point, so I am looking for an assist from old-fashioned manners to help me through this. I don’t like to make the people I work for feel that they are unimportant to me!

GENTLE READER: Even without a medical reason, so many people are bad at remembering names that politicians with good memories know that they can pretty much count on the vote of anyone they address by name.

The rest of us need help, and you should provide it as well as prompt it. That is, each time you ask, you also provide your own name. So if you were told the name 10 minutes ago, you say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get your name. I’m Ariela Rousseau.” And if you meet that person later, you give your name anyway, and to the inevitable protest, you reply, “Thank you, but I didn’t want to take for granted that you would remember me.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.

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