DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 90-year-old father, who has declined a bit cognitively with age, has a habit of striking up conversations with strangers. He tries to joke or make a comment in a good-natured way, but what he says can be unintentionally rude.
For example, he said, “I like to find people who look older than me” to a gentleman who was obviously at least 20 years his junior. In this particular instance, my siblings and I were caught off guard and could not come up with a suitable reply in a timely way.
What kind of response might offset the impact of my father’s inappropriate remarks without chastising my father for what he meant as a pleasant way to start a conversation?
GENTLE READER: A double job requires double smiles. Miss Manners suggests saying, “Father is a master of irony” while smiling apologetically at his target and then turning around to smile at him.
(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.)