DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a male acquaintance who has tried to get me into private and intimate situations, despite my saying "no" many, many times. I constantly hear stories from my female friends about men continuing to throw themselves at them, no matter how many times these ladies say they are not interested. In these cases, the young men are not asking us out on dates; they are asking us to engage in casual sexual activities.
I do not think these men are trying to sexually harass us, although we do feel sexually harassed. These men are simply used to young women being willing to engage in casual sexual encounters with them.
However, my close friends and I are ladies of propriety and do not desire these advances. In my own experience, when I have responded with a polite "No, thank you," the young man chuckles indulgently. I believe he thinks I am playing hard-to-get and want to be pursued with more determination. He genuinely does not understand that I am not playing a game. I simply do not desire his amorous advances.
I want him to take his answer like a gentleman. When an increasingly stern "No, thank you" is not working, what is a young lady to say that will stop his undesired attention?
GENTLE READER: "No, thank you" is the proper response for declining a cup of tea or some other gracious or benevolent offer. It is not the proper response to a lewd proposition. Even to Miss Manners' sympathetic ears, it sounds as if you are grateful to have been asked.
The proper response is, "How dare you!"
Now stop giggling. The reason this amuses you is that you don't blame those who ask because their propositions are sometimes accepted. In that case, you should not be insulted, as perhaps you are not. You complain only of the repetition, as if this is equivalent to the annoyance of a host who keeps pressing you to take a cookie after you have declined.
Miss Manners suggests that you pay more attention to your feelings of being sexually harassed. Consider whether the assumption that you, who consider yourself a lady of propriety, will engage in sex with anyone who asks -- to the extent that your refusals could not possibly be serious -- constitutes an insult.
Then respond to it as an insult.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I moved from New York to Florida for several unhappy reasons and not a single happy one. People I meet naturally ask, "What brings you to Florida?"
I realize they are simply expressing interest in me and demonstrating a desire to chat, both of which are very kind and welcome.
Talking about myself and my reasons for this somewhat traumatic move depresses me greatly at this point, however. I don't wish to lie, but I also don't wish to talk about my sorry life as it is right now. I've no idea what to say that encourages conversation, but discourages the topic of why I moved.
GENTLE READER: As you recognize, these people just want to chat. It is not a legal deposition, where you must tell the whole truth, so you don't need to give a literal answer to the question as long as you offer material for a chat. Miss Manners suggests, "I heard the weather was always calm," which can lead to a nice discussion about hurricanes.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)