DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to interact with people whom one does not care to socialize with? I feel that it is to limit the social interactions and to be polite when I do see them. My husband disagrees; he says this is "being fake."
You see, I don't care for several of my husband's close friends. They are my/his former co-workers, and I have very little in common with them. I feel very uncomfortable at gatherings, as I do not like to drink alcohol excessively.
When I do see them, I feel I am as polite as possible. My husband is angry with me. He says they like me, and I should attend more functions with him. However, I have absolutely no desire to see these people on a regular basis. I do feel guilty that these people may have mistaken my courtesy for friendship.
Do you see the dilemma I'm in? My patience is worn thin at this point. How do I maintain these boundaries without appearing snobby or impolite?
GENTLE READER: As you have distanced yourself from these people in a way that is apparently both successful and polite, Miss Manners recommends that you continue to do so.
The problem is with your husband, who inexplicably thinks that faking an affinity you do not feel would be more genuine. You might point out to him -- with whom you can be explicit about your preferences -- that your being more honest with his friends would increase his problems with them, not the reverse.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My new partner and I receive invitations from my friends and family for dinners and social events. They are happy for me in my new relationship and want to meet him. My partner does not enjoy casual socializing, and is adamant about not wanting to go.
That is mostly fine with me, so we have agreed that I will let him know occasions that are important to me that I would like him to attend. He's fine with that and has done so. He is retired from a successful professional career, is a happy guy who engages in sports and activities he enjoys, and we have an active life together.
I think his dislike of socializing is in response to many years of required attendance at business and personal affairs (he is a widower). I am happy to attend alone, but the oblique excuses I make for him are making me feel uncomfortable. Please help me with a response that is truthful but fair to him and will not offend the invitees.
GENTLE READER: What you need is a series of responses to deal with the rude, but unfortunately predictable, follow-ups to an initial refusal.
Answer No. 1: "Edwin is so sorry but he will not be able to attend." Answer No. 2: "He just can't. He's so tied up right now."
Answer No. 3: "I realize that. He would love to have come, but it's just not possible."
Miss Manners trusts you to follow the pattern and improvise more as necessary without resorting to, "Edwin hates your barbecues and now I'm not coming either."
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)