Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have several friends, and even complete strangers, who always want to show me pictures of their children and grandchildren on their smartphones. We are not talking about one picture, but 20 or more.

I do not know these children and, frankly, it is boring. I have vision problems and the small screen gives me a headache.

I have tried looking at a couple of pictures and trying to change the topic. They put the phone away and soon it comes out again. I even had a complete stranger show me pictures of his six children and their associated children in the ophthalmologist’s office while my eyes were dilating.

I am sick of it, and my comments are getting more and more rude. Could you please suggest a phrase I might use to stop the cellphone attack?

GENTLE READER: Putting cameras into telephones was a step backward for civilization, Miss Manners believes. Suddenly people were waving selfie sticks around, posting unflattering pictures of others, broadcasting their bragging, and, as you experienced, spreading colossal amounts of boredom. Really, the only use that ought to be permitted is gathering evidence of crime.

There can hardly be a better excuse than dilated eyes to avoid these shows, but apparently even that didn’t work. Even if it had, Miss Manners supposes that you can’t always hang around the ophthalmologist’s office. She recommends complimenting the children for two pictures, and then handing back the telephone saying, “You’d better take this -- I don’t trust myself not to drop it.” That the danger would be your dropping it in a soporific state of boredom, rather than clumsiness, need not be specified.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I swear too much and act like a jerk online.

GENTLE READER: Then please cut it out.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a luncheon at the home of a friend who had invited people she knew from several different places (church, neighborhood, work), so we did not all already know each other. I sat down next to a man and introduced myself with, “Hi, I’m (blank).”

He laughed and said, “Oh, I can never remember names.”

I was taken aback and thought this was very rude. I might not have remembered his name either, but I would not have told him I was going to make no effort to remember it. How would Miss Manners have handled this -- bearing in mind that I did not want the hostess to regret having invited me?

GENTLE READER: As you recognize, this is not the charming and apologetic admission of a common human failing that the speaker may think it is. That would be “I’m so sorry, but I have trouble remembering names. Please tell me yours again.”

What the preemptive declaration conveys is “I’m sure I’ll have no reason to want to know you better.”

In that case, Miss Manners would nod in acknowledgment, probably saying something as restrained as “I won’t trouble you,” before turning her attention to a more receptive guest.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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