DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are both recovering from the coronavirus. At the beginning of a video call with another couple over the weekend, I asked them, “How are you keeping?”
And the answer came back, “We are keeping a lot better than you, by the sound of it.”
It certainly felt like a put-down. I let it pass because it probably would have been too upsetting to do much else. What would be a good reply -- or should I just blame my husband for having talked about his symptoms too much in a previous phone call?
GENTLE READER: It has come to Miss Manners' attention that people without ill intentions sometimes blurt out mildly hurtful observations, as she presumes happened in the case you describe. Whether the inspiration is a momentary lapse in judgment or a misguided attempt at humor or familiarity does not matter.
The correct response is not to pretend everything is fine, but to give a subtle indication that it is not fine, so that the speaker has a chance to revise those remarks for the record. A flat “hm” or pause qualifies; a scowl does not.
Blaming your husband for this exchange, even if he was overly forthcoming in a prior encounter, seems neither subtle nor fair.