Q: I am a singer and performer, young and female. Many times after a show, people, especially men, will come up and tell me how much they liked my performance. They also hint that they would like to be “better acquainted” with me.
Sometimes they’ll start becoming regular fans, only to stop attending after two or three shows, once it is clear that I will not reciprocate their affections.
This confusion extends not only to fans, but to colleagues. The music world is not like an office, with a clear hierarchy — success means weaving your way through a web of fellow musicians, engineers, bookers, etc. More than once, I’ve had someone tell me they were really interested in co-writing with me, booking me, etc., but once we’re alone it’s clear the motives were otherwise.
How can I be professional and friendly in this world, get things done, be taken seriously as a musician, not alienate fans or colleagues — but not feel like I’m running a gantlet all the time? It’s completely exhausting.
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A: Although Miss Manners cannot change your colleagues’ behavior, she can help you manage it with one word: homework.
Treat the requests as genuine, while limiting your interactions to the unflinchingly professional. If a colleague offers to co-write, ask him to send you samples of his own work. A would-be agent can be told you would be thrilled to discuss any offers and would like to look over the details before meeting to discuss them. Fans should be added to the mailing list, not the backstage admittance list. Better to be thought clueless than to be bullied.
Q: Do you eat mashed potatoes with a fork or a spoon?
A: A fork. If you need a spoon, the food you are eating is potato-flavored butter. Miss Manners does not recommend that.
Q: My wife and I purchased our first home last September, a beautiful house on a corner lot.
Well, then we had an unwelcome surprise. Almost every week, we have a new sign in our yard advertising for someone’s garage sale.
I have not had one person ask my wife or me if they could place a sign in our yard; they just do it as if this is acceptable. I would never dream of placing anything in someone’s yard without their consent. Whenever I see a new sign, I take it and throw it in the trash. Am I obligated to advertise other people’s garage sales just because I have a corner lot?
A: You are under no such obligation, but barring the appearance of a sign- and mallet-wielding neighbor while you are out watering the petunias, some method of remote education is clearly necessary. This unfortunately means a sign of your own.
Miss Manners prefers the polite (“Please do not post signs on the lawn”) to the peremptory (“Private Property. No Advertising”). And yes, she appreciates the irony.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.