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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Stop apologizing for non-infraction

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: While I was at work, a co-worker berated me loudly over an incident in our parking lot.

The lot is overcrowded, and it is quite difficult to find a spot. I had found an available space, and pulled into the (empty) oncoming lane to get a better angle into it. Then my co-worker’s car came around the corner heading in my direction. I quickly abandoned the space, and pulled back into my lane.

At the time, I didn’t think much of it, as it was not really a close call. However, in front of my co-workers, he came up and told me I nearly hit him, and kept repeating this over and over. Of course, everyone else came over to gawk at the situation. I apologized repeatedly and explained that I was just trying to park. I didn’t even mention that he was driving quite fast for a parking lot.

This situation was extremely embarrassing for me, as I am a very sensitive individual and tend to agonize over every mistake I make. I am so embarrassed that I don’t even want to go back into the office. Fortunately, he will be out of the office for the next few days, and we don’t sit near each other, but how do I handle this the next time I see him? Should I apologize again?

GENTLE READER: Parking your car was not a mistake. Careening around the corner at a high speed, yelling at you, and doing so in front of your co-workers were three, of escalating seriousness.

You may therefore be surprised when Miss Manners applauds your initial apology: It was worth trying to defuse the situation, and it would have provided an opportunity to add, “I was pulling into the space and it sounds like you came around the corner without seeing me.”

This would have alerted everyone in the office to what really happened – something they may already surmise, given your co-worker’s subsequent behavior. One apology for a non-infraction is, however, more than enough: You should now adopt the frosty reserve of someone who has been insulted, but has chosen not to make a further issue of it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have a cousin who became engaged five years ago. Since then, he and his fiancee have had two children and are co-parents to a third child from a previous marriage. They own a house and are living as a married couple in everything but legality.

Is it proper to still refer to them as “fiances”? We see them frequently enough that they come up in conversation (i.e., “We spent the weekend with my cousin, his fiancee and their children”), and it feels awkward to specify a pending union when they are so clearly united.

GENTLE READER: Your cousin, his fiancee and their children apparently have more pressing things to do than legalize their relationship. Miss Manners suspects that you do, as well.

She therefore decrees that the whole assortment will henceforth be known as “the cousins” – as in, “We were going to go on vacation with the cousins, but they couldn’t make up their minds where they wanted to go.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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