DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have recently moved to the West Coast, and a question that frequently arises is, "Where are you from?" People sometimes recognize the name of the small East Coast town, and respond with some variation of, "You must be rich!"
I find that being labeled a rich person (which, sadly, I am not) makes me feel very awkward about how to continue the conversation. It doesn't really seem a compliment, so "Thank you" seems inappropriate.
A protestation of "No, no!" even with a laugh, leads to a steadily more undignified wrangling about how much money I must have, how much houses cost in the town, etc. I have tried to answer simply with the state, but most people press for the specific town, saying that they're familiar with the state's geography. A raised eyebrow or an "I beg your pardon" makes me feel as though I am acting the part of a rich snob. What is the proper response to such a verbalized presumption?
GENTLE READER: "I would be, if I had a nickel for all you folks out here who believe that."