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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 1/18

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I frequently see people going about their business whose masks have slipped below the nose. It’s maybe because it’s too loose, or it sometimes happens when people have been talking.

Should I say something? I know you are against people running around correcting others, especially strangers. And I don’t want to get into one of those explosive confrontations between people who are for or against wearing masks. These people are wearing masks, it’s just that they’re not wearing them effectively.

GENTLE READER: Calling attention to an accidental error that is easily fixable is indeed different from challenging deliberate defiance. It is a favor, rather than a criticism. But it must be done discreetly.

An obsolete example that comes to Miss Manners’ mind is the way one lady might whisper to another, “Excuse me, but your slip is showing.”

No doubt this requires some explanation. A “slip” is now understood to be a small accident, and Miss Manners doesn’t want to shock anyone by saying that it used to be ladies’ regulation underwear. What is now known as a slip dress was actually worn under a real dress. This was back before revealing one’s underwear was considered intriguing, so the slip was supposed to be entirely concealed.

But accidents happen. And they happened so often that a euphemistic reference, “It’s snowing down south,” would be understood.

Miss Manners has wandered into this quaint tangent in search of a quick hint that can be quietly conveyed to someone whose mask has slipped. She supposes that “Excuse me, your nose is showing” will not do. Nor can she think of a cute geographical reference.

So a quiet “Excuse me, I believe your mask has slipped,” accompanied by a sympathetic smile, will have to do.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Currently, I am in my master’s program, and in a state of intense work within my field. I am also a mother of three and run a nonprofit organization. I’m a busy lady with not a lot of time for B.S.

My friends and family know I am busy, that I am trying to focus, and how important this is to me. These “friends and family” are not only unsupportive, but also contacting me about really arbitrary, useless things.

I just want them to leave me alone for the next few months until my qualifying review. I’ll deal with the “unsupportive” part later. How do I nicely tell people to leave me alone?

GENTLE READER: It’s a good thing that you added the word “nicely.” You sound exasperated, and in danger of saying something that will keep them away when you want them to congratulate you on getting that degree.

If these family members are your minor children, Miss Manners can only offer you sympathy, and she hopes that you find a way to keep them safely occupied. But if they are not members of your household, you should sound apologetic when you tell them that for the next whatever-amount-of-time, you can’t focus with distractions. You are therefore turning off the telephone and not attending to texts, emails or doorbells, but will be happy and relieved when you are again free to have the pleasure of seeing them.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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