DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a divorced, non-custodial father of a 6-year-old boy. My ex-wife (who is my son's mother) and I get along very well, and often the three of us will attend community events together.
Frequently, we will engage in conversation with another couple who has children around our son's age. At some point in the conversation, we will be asked how long we have been married and other questions that couples have a tendency to ask one another.
Usually we respond that we are divorced but are still good friends, and then try to steer the conversation away from us and toward the children. This does not always seem to be enough to prevent the other couple from feeling uncomfortable.
Do you have any suggestions about how we could respond to these types of questions in a way that does not create an awkward moment for the couple we are talking with?
GENTLE READER: No doubt these people would feel relieved to see you at each other's throats, the way they expect normal, divorced couples to behave, but Miss Manners sees no reason to oblige.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I knew I was about to lose my job, I mentioned my availability to a few people in case they knew of anyone hiring software engineers. It turned out that one of them was the sister-in-law of the high-profile CEO of a large software company. She asked me to bring my resume the next time we met.
I had expected that she would pass the resume on to her brother-in-law, but when I gave it to her, she looked confused and told me to mail it to him at work, as she wouldn't be seeing him. I asked if she knew of an e-mail address I could send it to, and she said she only had his personal address and didn't feel comfortable giving it out.
She's a motherly kind of woman who is new to the Internet, and probably believes that you need to send a paper resume to be taken seriously, which isn't the case in the software industry.
I appreciate the referral, but you can't just mail a resume to the CEO of a large company without any sort of introduction. I did send it, in case he was waiting for it, but he never replied. I doubt that it even made it past his mail screener, who wouldn't have recognized this woman's name when I mentioned her in the cover letter.
How could I have turned the situation around? Should I have asked her to e-mail it for me? Or asked if she'd let him know to expect my letter? How could I have let her know that the referral was useless without an introduction, without sounding ungracious?
GENTLE READER: The lady already knew it was useless, Miss Manners is sorry to have to tell you. Between the time she made her impulsive offer and the next time she saw you, she found out that her brother-in-law was not interested in the referral -- or perhaps she simply reflected that he would not be.
This need not be a reflection on you. If you were a CEO, it is possible that you would approve a personnel policy that failed to give preference to your motherly sister-in-law's acquaintances.
Networking has its limits. It is all very well to make it known that you are job hunting, but you cannot dictate the type of help to be given.