DEAR MISS MANNERS: In social settings, is it OK to finish a conversation and walk away when doing so leaves the other person awkwardly alone?
I was chatting with someone I did not know at a party. After about 20 minutes of pleasant conversation, I used a pause to say I was going to refresh my drink and asked if the man would like one himself. He said no, and I walked away and joined friends in another room. He was left sitting alone, and I felt a bit guilty.
I know I'm not obligated to sit with him until someone else joins us, which may not happen, but is there a better way to leave?
GENTLE READER: The only people who never have such awkward moments -- being stuck talking to the same person or being left adrift -- are people who refuse to attend these types of parties. And Miss Manners cannot say that she blames them.
Had another guest been on the loose in the vicinity, it would have been graceful for you to nab a substitute as you left. But such is not always the case, and your excuse, which implied that the gentleman could have accompanied you to the bar, or that you would have been willing to come back to him with a drink had he wanted one, was polite.
Such parties are hazardous, and the hosts should be on the lookout to draw people together. But there is only so much guests can do to rescue one another.