DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in desperate need of your sage advice concerning friends/acquaintances who continually chide my husband and me because our lives do not revolve around sitting at a computer all day.
We are educated, retired and attend many social functions with retired friends, where conversation invariably leads to stories of how much time they spend on the computer at home every day. Also about blogs, iPods, cable/dish television and radio, etc. We are avid readers, enjoy nature and bird watching, walking, interacting with our grandchildren and neighbors, attending theater and philharmonic and, most importantly, we converse. We often frequent our local library, watch PBS and listen to NPR.
We do have an old computer that I occasionally use for e-mail only (but am not online), and do not subscribe to cable/dish nor own iPods.
We would never dream of telling them NOT to spend so much of their precious time in life sitting in front of a computer. Yet we are on the receiving end of their endless, and often arrogant, remarks about how we are "out of the loop."
GENTLE READER: What makes you think it an insult to be told that you are out of that particular loop?
Miss Manners advises you to stop being defensive and turn -- well, no, not offensive, as you would be if you touted your pastimes, as your friends and acquaintances tout theirs. But you enjoy conversation, so why don't you initiate some? A standard opening to do so is, "Read any good books lately?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A number of years ago, my closest friend asked me for money in the amount of $400 to make her house payment. I had the money and I gave it to her. Through the years, she brought it up once or twice and mentioned that if she ever came into money, she would take me to Italy.
She recently inherited a very great deal of money, and I am living on a pension. The $400 repayment would be an asset, but I am hesitant to bring it up. I am frustrated that she has not made any reference to this loan.
She has always known that she would one day inherit. Now that she has, I am frustrated as there has been no mention of repayment.
Is there a polite way of bringing it up, or is this a lesson in life that I must learn?
GENTLE READER: Apparently, you have learned the lesson that it is rude to discuss money with friends. What you have not learned was that once a friend enters into a financial agreement with you, this prohibition is no longer in effect. Your friend has waived it.
Miss Manners recommends that you ask for your money back in a pleasant but businesslike manner: "Some years ago, I lent you $400, and I would like it repaid now." No special pleas, such as accompany the request to borrow money, are needed. It is your money.
Should your friend attempt to barter, brining up that vague promise of a trip, you should say, "Why, that would be extremely nice of you" -- and after all, why shouldn't she do you a favor when you did one for her? -- "but first I'd like to clear that loan."