DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiancee knows a woman who, virtues aside, is somewhat on the egocentric side, and at times can be overbearing and stressful to interact with. They tend to spend time together about once every week or two, and my fiancee considers this woman a friend, but not a really intimate one.
On a recent weekend, this woman called and left my fiancee voice messages on both Friday and Saturday nights. Then, on Sunday night, she called again and, getting through this time, her opening to the conversation was, "Have you been avoiding me?"
My fiancee asked me for advice on how she should've responded to that, and I was stuck scratching my head and saying, "That's such a rude thing to say in the first place that it's hard to imagine there can be a proper response to it."
But if there is a proper response, I'm sure Miss Manners knows it. What would it be?
GENTLE READER: There are always proper responses, even to rude questions, Miss Manners assures you.
In this case what your fiancee needs is a response, but not an answer -- as the question is both rude and leading: "I'm glad you caught me, and sorry I have not had a chance to get back to you yet. What's on your mind? Was it urgent?"