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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 11/11

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 11, 2020

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the age of COVID-19 and social distancing, the number of social events where one might meet a prospective mate has significantly diminished. Because of that, online dating has lately become one of my primary ways of meeting people.

Historically, as a guy, I would look at the photos/profiles of particular females that I would like to meet, then I would reach out to them to see if they would like to link up for a phone conversation or maybe coffee. At least 90% of them do not respond, and I have sent so many that I tend to be numb if I don’t get a response.

Rarely, a female will reach out to me and try to set something up. If I’m not interested in this person, I still feel obligated to acknowledge the offer and decline it out of some sense of courtesy – even though that is not my experience when the tables are reversed. I never get a “Thank you for asking, but no thank you” from a female.

Because of that, I was wondering if in fact I was obligated by etiquette to acknowledge the “reach out.” And if so, what’s the best way to tactfully decline their request to get together?

GENTLE READER: Civilians – by which, in this case, Miss Manners means “everyone but herself” – tend to assume too quickly that new technology requires new etiquette. As in, “Do I really have to answer Grandma’s text since she never looks at her phone anyway?”

But the problem you pose is genuinely new. In the old days, when Aunt Rose’s friend’s daughter Brittany called you, your familial obligations to Aunt Rose extended to Brittany, requiring some response. The gentlest answer – that you are so pleased to be introduced, but that Aunt Rose was unaware that you are not looking to date right now – is difficult to use when you are registered on a dating site.

But not impossible. Congratulations if you can keep a straight face while answering, “I’m so sorry, but I’m no longer available, I just forgot to take down my profile.” If you cannot, Miss Manners reluctantly condones not answering, on the theory that business etiquette does not require responses to those calling – metaphorically, in this case – to sell you something.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of mine is turning 60 and having a birthday party. She doesn’t need money, so I made a $60 donation to a good charity in her name.

But when the acknowledgement card came, it did not have the amount of the gift on it. Would it be tacky for me to write in “$60 in honor of your 60th birthday,” or should I just leave the amount a mystery?

GENTLE READER: Paying $60 for a 60th birthday party strikes Miss Manners – and probably would strike your friend – as less clever than you are hoping. This leaves her to wonder if the clarification is worth the effort. An actual gift that showed some thought for your friend’s interests would be ever so much cleverer.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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