DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a very private person and have had issues with stalkers in the past. I am not on any social media, nor do I want to be.
So when the usual, casual, get-to-know-you questions are asked in a social setting, I lie or tell half-truths about where I live and work. And I give my nickname instead of my legal name, or any other identifiable information.
I think it is much better to just make up this info than to say, “I’m not going to tell you.” I have zero intention of explaining my painful past, and anyway, why does some random person need to know?!
My sister thinks this is a terrible idea and thinks I should just politely tell them I don’t want to give out that information. What do you think is the best way to answer these types of social questions?
GENTLE READER: First, let us clarify your own question. You seem to be asking how to behave at getting-to-know-you gatherings when you don’t want anyone to get to know you. In that case, why attend?
It is not that Miss Manners believes that you are required to give your address to strangers. Even without your unfortunate experience, that seems unwise. It is also unnecessary.
But you have to give them something with which to start a conversation. And the none-of-your-business dismissal your sister suggests is not going to do it. Nor should you be lying.
But for that matter, bare facts, even if you were willing to provide them, would not serve the purpose, either.
You should use those questions to provide information you don’t mind sharing: “I live in town, but I have a tiny patch of land because I love to garden. Do you?” Or “Oh, I just work to support my tennis habit. Do you play?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We frequently have my sister-in-law’s family over for family dinners. She and her husband have always allowed their 12-year-old son to choose not to eat any vegetables, and almost no fruit. He refuses to eat them because “he doesn’t like them.” This has gone on his entire life.
At Thanksgiving dinner, he will eat a small amount of turkey and probably several rolls. Dessert is always allowed, which he eats in full. This is bothersome not only to my wife and me, but to her other sisters and extended family members, also.
When they are at our house as our guests, are we on any valid ground to insist the kid eat a couple of green beans or carrots and some potatoes?
GENTLE READER: No. In fact, double no, because you should not attempt to train other people’s children unless specifically authorized to do so, and you should not be monitoring what any of your guests eat.
You will, of course, protest that the child is a relative and that you are concerned for his health. That is a topic that can be raised only by a relative who is on confidential terms with the parents and can do so without criticism of their child-rearing -- and far away from the dinner table.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)