DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 26-year-old man living near my family, with whom I have very close relationships. This often brings me into contact with their friends, many of whom I have never met or are acquaintances at best.
What is a polite way for me, as an openly gay man, to address their questions about girlfriends or girls I'm dating?
I've been "out of the closet" for years and feel it is appropriate to be known for who I am. I've been accused of "pushing an agenda," which annoys me, because I've never proceeded with these people to divisive topics like gay equality. I've also never told children (of friends, cousins, etc.) of my sexuality when asked similar questions, as I assume most people would appreciate my discretion in these instances.
It is important to me, and all gay people, that I live an honest and open life. But I feel at times that people interpret my honesty as unnecessary and intentionally inappropriate.
GENTLE READER: People you hardly know are asking about your love life and then accusing you of being pushy if you respond?
Miss Manners sees this as yet another reason, among many, not to attempt to satisfy busybodies. Such people think of themselves as showing a commendable interest in others, but the interest nearly always turns out to be in critiquing the way others lead their lives.
And it is amazing how many people think that a charming conversation opener with the younger generation is "So, are you seeing anyone?" or the ever-popular "Why aren't you married?"
Generally, the response from those who are nice enough not to return this rudeness in kind is to answer vaguely ("Not at the moment" or "Haven't met the right person") and then to change the subject -- or, better yet, to escape.
But Miss Manners would hardly blame you for giving matter-of-fact answers ("Yes, I have a boyfriend" or "I haven't met the right man") followed by "But enough about me -- tell me about yourself."
Should there be shock, complaints or further questions, your response should be, "But didn't you just ask me?" followed by the all-important change-of-subject.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My girlfriend of many years had her best friend of many years' husband's mother die. The funeral was on a warm day. I wore a short-sleeved dress shirt and nice cotton pants.
She complained that it was not proper to wear expensive boat shoes without socks for this solemn time. I should have worn socks. She had a three-quarter-length dress and wore flip-flops, which I said definitely was not proper for the circumstances. She said because they were fancy and not cheap flip-flops, they were OK. She has also worn flip-flops for other functions.
GENTLE READER: Was either of you paying attention to the service rather than each other's feet? Just asking.
A funeral is indeed a formal occasion, and both of you were shod for leisure sport. Miss Manners suggests you call it a draw and resolve to make a greater effort if you must attend another funeral. Dressing formally and somberly is the symbolic way of acknowledging the occasion as something more than an obligatory stop on your way to the more entertaining part of your day.