DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a social event given by an organization in which my spouse is active, a member asked me, "Do you still work?"
I was somewhat taken aback by this question. I am in my late 50s, and am told that my appearance and dress match my age.
This is not the first time a newly met person in a social situation has asked me this question, with emphasis on the "still." Each time, I have tried to come up with an appropriate response, but have been somewhat tripped up.
I have an advanced degree and work in a career that has taken years to build. I have no intention of retiring in the near future, and it feels quite rude when people imply that I am too old to "still" be working.
Am I being too sensitive? Is there a good response to this question? I don't wish to return rudeness for rudeness. However, I would like to have an appropriate answer that feels authentic.
GENTLE READER: "Yes; do you?"
Miss Manners remembers the days when gentlemen routinely asked ladies whether they worked. It was amazing how flabbergasted they were when she bounced the question right back.
She agrees that any such question is patronizing, at best. But you needn't attribute it to the notion that you look old enough to retire. You could have been fired, in which case the inquiry would have made you feel even worse. Or you could have sold the rights to a video game you invented for a sum that allows you to wallow in idle luxury.