DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a small town with acrimonious politics and try to stay out of things, for the most part succeeding.
When I go to vote, however, and am waiting in line, a local woman working as an election judge, with whom I am slightly acquainted, begins skillfully peppering me with personal questions.
Would you suggest a statement that I may use to politely stand my ground and decline the questioning?
GENTLE READER: Try "Oh, dear, aren't there rules against electioneering here?"
Miss Manners is aware that the lady will then protest that she wasn't electioneering -- just being nosy, as it were -- but the question will have grabbed the attention of her colleagues. You can then politely explain, "Oh, but the election is on my mind right now, and I don't want to say anything that would violate the rules."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a young child, my daughter Lauren was best friends with another little girl, Heather, and my wife and I enjoyed her parents as well, so we all socialized often.
As the girls hit middle and high school, Lauren joined the cheerleader squad and began to spend most of her time with that crowd of kids. Heather was not part of that group, and the two girls grew apart, and as that happened, we also spent very little time with her parents. We were always cordial and continued to send Christmas cards and such as that.
At graduation we discovered that Heather had garnered almost every award the school had to offer and also received a scholarship to a very prestigious university to study something like bio-engineering. Lauren was an average student, and she will be attending a local community college next year to prepare for a future four-year school.
Some weeks after graduation, we received a card from Heather's parents. It said: "Congratulations to Lauren on her high school graduation, and to you as her parents. It seems just a minute ago that the girls were flying up from Brownie scouts and now here they are ready to really spread their wings and fly."
I thought the card was fine, but my wife insists that this is a real insult to how we did our job as parents. She has been furious about it and has been on the phone with friends and family planning how she should respond. She's also angry at me because I don't agree with her; she says if I was a woman I'd see this for what it was. So I thought I'd ask you if this was bad or good manners.
GENTLE READER: It is certainly bad manners to take a gracious letter as an insult, gossip to others about this and to plot some sort of return insult.
Miss Manners, who is of the same gender as your wife, is something of an expert at reading subtexts. The one she finds here is that although Heather's parents never complained of her being dropped for the cheerleading crowd and did not brag of her scholastic honors, Lauren's mother is dissatisfied with her own daughter's achievements and resentful of those of someone who was, after all, her daughter's friend and the daughter of friends of her own.
She joins you in begging your wife to stop damaging the reputation of your daughter, who will be presumed to have exhibited envy that inspired the maternal fury.