DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am happily married and get along very well with my husband's family, even though our backgrounds are very different. My parents live in a mansion, while his parents live in a converted mobile home.
When I visit my in-laws, I'm happy to sleep on the living room floor with my husband, perhaps even sharing the room with one or two other family members. This Christmas, though, my in-laws will be hosting a family reunion, in which my husband and I are expected to share the living room with more than a dozen people, some of whom even my husband doesn't know.
Should I grit my teeth, or is there a way to ask my beloved in-laws if they would mind if we stayed at a hotel instead? The only acceptable excuse I have been able to think of is telling them we were trying to conceive a child and that was my fertile time, but as much as I dread camping out with strangers, I do not think that is a good reason to start a family.
GENTLE READER: Nor to startle the one you already have.
Miss Manners is flabbergasted that the only excuse you can think of would provide everyone with a vivid, if misleading, picture of how you and your husband plan to spend the night. Did it not occur to you to say, "I'm afraid I've been having trouble sleeping"?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in the airline industry and live in a large condominium. Unfortunately, most of my neighbors know what I do for a living since they see me in my uniform coming and going to work, and everybody, invariably, will ask me questions pertaining to my line of work anytime they see me in the elevator, at the pool, etc.
I understand my work draws curiosity, but answering the same questions over and over to the same people for over five years now is really driving me nuts! They ask me if it's my day off or when am I going on a trip again?
Why would that matter to a stranger anyway? Why would I want to discuss my company business with strangers? Please tell me what would be a good answer to these irritating questions so they won't ask me again?
GENTLE READER: Airport security must be getting to you, if you cannot distinguish between an idle question and an interrogation.
The answer to your question of why your schedule would matter to strangers is that it doesn't. They are just trying to be pleasant, and since they travel less frequently and love to talk about where they go, plan to go and have been, they do not realize you do not.
Miss Manners does not mean to suggest that you therefore need to tell them. All you are required to do, since these are your neighbors with whom you presumably want to be on good terms, is to offer a return pleasantry. Almost anything vague would do if you offer it cheerfully: "Just glad to be home" or "Hither and yon," or "Depends on the scheduling," or "I'll know when I get there."