DEAR MISS MANNERS: As I am a woman over 60 with graying hair, people constantly ask if I have grandchildren. I don't, nor do I have children.
I realize these people are just trying to make conversation, but when I answer in the negative, the conversation stops dead and makes for an awkward silence.
I've tried changing the subject or talking about my pets, but the uncomfortableness usually remains and prevents further discourse. How else can I answer this question?
GENTLE READER: Are you under the impression that people who ask that question are eager to talk about your presumed grandchildren?
Not likely. As you say, they hope to start a conversation. Miss Manners assures you that they will happily embark on one if your reply is, "No, do you?"