DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a dear friend who just turned 80. I really do not believe he suffers from memory problems, as he has very good recall of both recent events and names, as well as those from the past.
Yet my friend has, for many years, brought up in our conversations the same facts or details of cases he has handled as a lawyer, or a lengthy retelling of one of his distant vacations or some event that occurred in his life.
He never prefaces these with "Have I told you this before?" or "Did I ever tell you about the case I handled?" Instead, he proceeds to describe in detail the facts as if he were telling them to me for the very first time.
I have, on occasion, told him as he begins one of these oft-told tales that he had already told me about it. But I was hoping there is a polite, non-condescending way of saying to him, before he begins to repeat one of these stories, that he should first ask me whether he has already told me about it. He is a good friend and I don't wish to hurt his feelings, but I have grown weary of having to listen to the same thing over and over again.
GENTLE READER: Retelling one's stories is human nature at any age, as is boredom and impatience among unwilling audience members.
While it might be helpful if your friend vetted his stories before telling them, getting him to do so should not be your goal. Your goal is to stop him once he has begun and you recognize the story.
As Miss Manners deals in etiquette, which often contradicts inclination, you have come to the right place. Use your knowledge of your friend's punch lines: "I remember that, that's a great story. I can't believe you spent five days in Guam while they tried to find a replacement engine." Then change the subject.
Miss Manners does not recommend changing it to one of your own well-worn stories, although she understands the temptation.