DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are renting a nice home in an upscale neighborhood outside Washington, D.C. Since moving in, at least a dozen neighbors have approached us with the off-putting welcome of "So, you are renting this house?"
We both find the question to be rather forward and rude.
Without knowing our reason for renting, it puts us on the defensive for not being "able" to buy a home, when, in fact, we are more than able to; we just choose not to in this current market.
Could you help us with an appropriate comeback that let's them know that yes, we are renters, but that in no way makes us second-class citizens and we don't appreciate having to defend our status?
GENTLE READER: Don't you want to get the curtains up before you start sparring with the neighbors?
Miss Manners is not at all sure that you have any cause. She has no tolerance for pure nosiness, real estate or otherwise, but surely you understand that neighbors have a legitimate interest in what is going on in the neighborhood. Maybe they hate your landlords and hope they are gone for good. Maybe they like you and are hoping you are there to stay. Maybe they also rent.
Besides, don't you know that nowadays, seeming rich is considered more offensive than seeming poor?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: While having guests over has been a welcome change from "happy hours" around town, one new challenge has arisen in keeping friends happily entertained. Concerning music, there are three types of guest. The first is fine with almost any music. The second prefers having nothing playing at all, explaining that she has difficulty conversing while music is playing, at any volume.
The third guest must have music playing to feel comfortable, and is quite particular about the music itself, not tolerating anything different for long. She will pick through the host's CD collection as a sort of unsolicited DJ and will even bring her own CDs to play. Another variant of this is the guest with an iPod who will connect it to a stereo, to play for an entire evening without invitation or discussion.
How would you recommend handling those overzealous people with no patience for any tunes but their own? And can they possibly sit in the same room with someone who finds any music at all detrimental to conversation?
GENTLE READER: Your choice seems to be between letting them try to socialize without musical accompaniment and making everyone listen to the meddling guests' choice of music -- not only people who dislike background music but those who have different musical tastes. Miss Manners would have no trouble making that choice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am familiar with wedding announcements. Is there an equivalent for deaths? Is the bereaved expected to send a notice to friends and relatives who are not nearby? Can this task be delegated to a family member?
GENTLE READER: Formal death notices, with black-bordered cards, do exist, but are not in common use in the United States. Miss Manners considers this exactly the sort of task that can be delegated to those people who keep asking, "Is there anything I can do?"
"Please let people know," can be the response, whether you hand over the address book of the deceased or simply mean that each person should inform whoever he or she knows who would be interested.