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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: ‘Sorry for your loss, which you didn’t know about yet’

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is a first responder (one not bound by privacy laws) and usually lets me know when neighbors or acquaintances die. Sometimes I know before the rest of their family.

When is the appropriate time to express my condolences: as soon as I find out? Or should I wait until the obituary comes out?

The older I get, the more I realize how unprepared I am to deal with death.

GENTLE READER: You are not unique in this. And that is why Miss Manners believes that hearing the news from an acquaintance would not be ideal. Best to leave it to the professionals and family members most directly affected.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A woman I used to have a meal with once a month or so has not communicated with me in three years. I didn’t give it that much thought, due to COVID: She has had health issues and might not have felt safe on the subway. (She lives outside the city proper, and we used to meet at a restaurant in the city.)

Last week she posted on social media that she is looking for a job. The next day, I got a frantic, brusque, ill-mannered and gauche email from her, saying, “As you can see, I am reaching out,” referencing her job search, “so I’d really like to get together.” Then she listed available dates.

I was really quite appalled. Considering that she hadn’t communicated with me personally in three years, don’t you think she owed it to me to spend at least the first paragraph “making nice”? As in, “I am really sorry I’ve been out of touch for so long, but …”

She is not a kid. She is a woman in her 60s who is old enough to have been taught how to write a polite message. I should add that I have no intention of making a date with her.

GENTLE READER: In those three years, did you reach out to this friend? Miss Manners only asks because if you did, and the friend did not respond, then you are entitled to be indignant. However, if you were complicit in the silence, she has a bit of sympathy for a friend who may have ascribed similar intentions to you and now sees an opportunity to connect, albeit a calculated one.

In any case, a polite but curt response would be, “I am so relieved to hear that you are out and about again, but I’m afraid I am not in a position to help with job connections.” You need not elaborate.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have a lake house, and friends often ask if they can stay with us. Entertaining for several days can be expensive and exhausting.

Please advise us how to respond when we are not sure if they are prepared to contribute or reciprocate.

GENTLE READER: Since you certainly cannot ask, Miss Manners recommends you weigh your relative affection for the visitors against the chance that they might not pitch in or reciprocate. And then learn from your mistakes.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.