DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a widow who remarried a few years ago. My husband is a tall, handsome professional. My brother’s wife, who is slightly younger than I, likes to get attention from any men around and, it seems, has set her sights on my new husband.
On several occasions, when she is annoyed at my brother, my sister-in-law has remarked that she will “go sit with,” “go be with” or “ride home with” my husband because “he will have me.” It makes it very awkward for my husband, my brother and me.
I am insulted both on my brother’s behalf and at her insinuation that my husband is somehow available. Could you suggest a humorous but pointed remark that will quash this behavior and not cause too much embarrassment all around?
GENTLE READER: “Oh, ha ha, he’s not getting in the middle of this. Come, dear, let me recuse you and let these two work things out on their own.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an artisan who makes my living exhibiting at craft fairs, and I enjoy it very much. However, sometimes collectors seem to think they have developed a close connection with me once they buy my work. These (rare, but troublesome) people will ask me to dinner, give me life advice, want to talk on the phone, and generally push for more friendship than I would like to offer.
I have a tough time putting these people off, because they are collectors of my artwork. Also, it is flattering that I seem so interesting to them.
Do you have any suggestions for how to cultivate an “air of reserve and mystery” and discourage excessive friendliness, while still being a good salesperson?
GENTLE READER: Small talk should be just that: small, and only relevant to the business at hand. Inquiries into your personal life should be met with short answers and quickly redirected to the work and the exhibition.
But Miss Manners has noticed that you are not alone in finding it difficult to distinguish between business and personal life. You have an advantage that many do not, however, which is a work location different from your home. Establishing a business-only email and phone number might be wise. That way, if personal talk or too-familiar requests begin to intrude, you may politely say, “This line (or inbox) is for work. Is there something art-related that I can answer for you?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A birthday boy asked me for a gift card as his birthday present. I got him the gift card. A day later, he asked me for the receipt. Should I give him the receipt? I think this is tactless and unkind when I shopped for what he asked for.
GENTLE READER: Is it possible he cannot figure out how much it is worth? Usually the amount is displayed somewhere, but perhaps this one’s is missing. If you think this might be the case and the boy is not old or clever enough to look it up himself, you might indulge him by telling him the amount. But if you suspect that this is a plot to return it for the money, Miss Manners gives you permission to decline the request. There are only so many demands one can accommodate when it comes to present giving. And this boy has already exceeded it by two.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website www.missmanners.com.
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