DEAR MISS MANNERS: My supervisor came into our office today and began describing to my co-worker, who is also a friend of hers, her intimate encounter with her husband the night before, including frequency, locations and method.
Now, I am a senior lady, married for many decades and hardly a prude. But I was very dismayed by their conversation, and it is not the first time this has happened. I was a captive audience, as it is not possible for me to leave my office.
I need the job and have no desire to irritate anyone by making disparaging remarks.
What can I say or do to extricate myself from having to listen to these conversations and, by my silence, perhaps inadvertently signal my approval of them?
GENTLE READER: It is time to remind the participants that these days, such stories can be misunderstood and result in everyone’s being called into Human Resources for harassment training -- or worse.
Miss Manners intends you to say that the misunderstanding will be someone else’s, while implying that the someone else might be too nearby to proceed with safety.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a dinner party with a friend who claims to be a strict vegetarian. The host served some pre-dinner snacks, and my friend began to eat lots and lots of Parmesan cheese.
I know that this food contains veal rennet, but was unsure if my friend was aware of this. Since she had already started eating the food, I didn’t want to embarrass her in front of everyone else, or make her feel sick by telling her on the drive home. I still feel a twinge of guilt about not sharing my information.
Is it rude to call someone out for breaking their eating practice, or should I mind my own business and leave it to them to know their facts?
GENTLE READER: The term “strict vegetarian” only became necessary when it was discovered that no two people could agree on the definition of “vegetarian.” And Miss Manners suspects that the more restrictive term is also subject to creative interpretation. She therefore considers it a blessing that it is impolite to comment on what someone else does or does not eat -- much less on what has already been eaten.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We had a police officer refer to a crime victim in her late 50s as “elderly.” I don’t think it is an adjective that ever needs to be used; stating only the age should be sufficient. It is a word that doesn’t add any valid information to a newspaper article, and it is based on personal biases. Do you think I am overreacting?
GENTLE READER: Someone would have reacted badly even if the victim had indeed been elderly. The descriptor was, as you say, unnecessary. Miss Manners only hopes that the police officer learns from reactions such as yours to omit the adjective next time, rather than to refer to the next victim as a “youthful octogenarian.”
(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.)