DEAR MISS MANNERS: We live in an area surrounded by high-achieving families. Nowhere is this more evident than in the behavior of local parents regarding their precious children.
I frequently have to endure conversations in which the guilty parent always manages to work into the conversation the child's straight-A average, her membership in the National Honor Society, her high class rank or the many top schools that are wooing her. This is always done as a sort of aside, e.g., "She's just so social -- I don't know how she manages to keep up her straight-A average!" or "She got a concussion skiing, but, bless her heart, still is getting straight A's in everything and keeping up her required community service hours for the National Honor Society!"
I am growing weary of pretending to be as interested in their son/daughter as they are. What is a polite response that will shut down the conversation before we get into a lengthy conversation about their child's class rank and GPA?
GENTLE READER: In answering your question, Miss Manners will, metaphorically, be putting a weapon into your hand. She therefore feels a need to preface this with some points about its responsible use.
Some show of interest in the banal conversation of others is required by good manners (although strained smiles are not required if your reaction is invisible because the bore is on the other end of a telephone or a computer). And each new person must be allowed to bore you a bit: that you heard the same litany from parents one through five does not, unfortunately, cut into the allowance you must make for parent No. 6.
Once having listened patiently to the initial salvo, however, you have Miss Manners' permission to pursue your own thoughts -- and to hint slightly (not obviously, which would be rude) at distraction by adopting a glassy look and fixed smile, or surreptitiously glancing around, provided you seem to catch yourself and whip back with a guilty smile.
If prodded for a response, you may sheepishly admit that you missed what was said -- with apologies because it is rude to cease to pay attention -- and quickly open another topic before the parent offers to repeat herself.