DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is well-known in our community. His job and his volunteer work with nonprofit groups require that we attend quite a few social functions. He has a great sense of humor, and everyone loves him.
We often go to events where I don’t know anyone. Should he stay by my side at these events, with us navigating the room together, or is it acceptable for him to leave me alone?
It’s difficult for me to strike up a conversation with complete strangers. I wander about, looking for someone to talk to, and it’s awkward. I’m friendly and outgoing with people that I know, but I find that I’m nervous and quiet in a room full of strangers.
This is causing a problem in our marriage. What is the correct social etiquette in this scenario?
GENTLE READER: Must you attend? As you are not adept at doubling your husband’s representation at these events -- known as “working the room,” a common practice for political spouses -- the simplest solution would be for him to offer your apologies and explain that you are otherwise occupied.
The only excuse for couples’ sticking together at social events is that one needs the support of the other, which generally means physical support. That your husband should compensate for your shyness stretches the point and puts an extra burden on him.
Also, it is insulting to the other guests. A couple who cannot bear to be apart long enough to enjoy the company of others should stay home.
But a happier solution for you would be to learn to draw out strangers. If the guests work for one of those groups, you need only ask them what they do and why they got involved, and then express appreciation. To others, you can express your admiration for the work being done. Miss Manners is guessing that your husband is good at that, and can teach you something to recite before you become relaxed enough to chatter on your own.