Q: A friend of a friend who I see at some social events does an odd thing. She will ask a question that is quite rude and none of her business, but add, “I’m nosy” or “I’m rude” at the end. For example, she asked another guest, “When is that husband of yours going to get you pregnant? I’m nosy.”
The idea, apparently, is that rudeness is acceptable when the person admits it ahead of time. What is the appropriate response?
Miss Manners advises that this be said with a sympathetic smile and followed by silence.
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Q: I love seeing ladies in films wearing gloves, and despite current fashion, want to bring them into my daily wear. I feel femininity never goes out of style.
Aside from challenging a gentleman to a duel, when does a lady remove her gloves?
A: Actually it drives Miss Manners crazy to see gloved ladies in period films, plays and operas. They almost always keep them on while eating, drinking or even smoking. Eeeew.
The general rule was (and there is no need to repeal it, as most ladies have long since peeled off their gloves) that gloves were always worn outdoors and almost never indoors. As a result, ladies had to be adept at carrying their gloves while enjoying non-abstemious indoor activities.
The exceptions when gloves might be worn indoors included occasions such as getting married and/or dancing. And for safety’s sake, Miss Manners advises wearing gauntlets for duels that are fought indoors.
Q: My husband and I were very close friends with a couple for many years. We moved away but stayed in touch and, in the past few years, were able to visit. Six months ago, when we were visiting their city, they said that they had no friends.
Alas, the husband died suddenly of a stroke five months ago. I know that the wife has no siblings or parents left.
I have sent her a formal sympathy note and three more casual follow-ups. I wrote a poem in his memory. It seems almost like stalking, but I remember how bereft she was when her sister died and felt that sympathy was not sufficiently extended (in general — I don’t think she was pointing the finger at me).
I don’t want to permit her to think that we are not feeling a lot of sympathy for her having lost her husband of almost 50 years. Yet her silence indicates that either our overtures are unwanted or that her condition is so bad that she is emotionally overwhelmed.
When does an old friend stop reaching out? I do not want to continue down an upsetting path, nor do I wish to appear insensitive.
A: Indeed, the lady should have acknowledged your great show of sympathy. Miss Manners does not generally accept bereavement as an excuse for ignoring kindness. On the contrary, responding is a way of representing the deceased, as well as encouraging continuing friendship, of which this lady is apparently in special need.
But please do give it a last try, this time by calling or visiting, as your generous correspondence has unfortunately failed.
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.