Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Husband is frequently mistaken for unpopular politician

Q: Since my husband, then-teenage daughter and I relocated from New York some years ago, we have run into a rather awkward situation due to the fact that my husband greatly resembles a local politician who was voted out of office after passing some bond issue that left a local municipality in dire financial straits.

This all happened before we moved here, so we do not know all the particulars, but we have strangers approaching us out of the blue and calling him nasty names, making snide remarks about “Who is this, and where’s your wife?”

This happens about a dozen times a year. When we politely explain that he is not who they think he is, they usually apologize and leave us alone, but some people do not believe us. Sometimes they become threatening.

We considered moving back home to New York when we retire, but our daughter has married here and just presented us with our only grandchild, so now we want to stay. Any advice for us?

A: Perhaps you could announce the (belated) news of the birth of your grandchild or other such event in a local newspaper, complete with pictures of yourselves? You could even add, “Margaret and Thurber Innocent — frequently mistaken for Governor No-Good” as part of the caption.

Miss Manners is not usually in favor of public announcements for anything other than weddings and deaths (especially since social media has made them all but redundant), but thinks that an exception could be made here.

Otherwise, continue as you have (“Yes, I understand that I do bear a resemblance, but I am not he”) and hope that the harassment — and public memory — subsides. If it becomes threatening, of course call the authorities. Or give up and have your husband declare that he has amended his ways. America does so love a comeback.

Q: Is it poor manners to drink water while you are eating? I have a small esophagus and choke very easily, so I take a drink after most bites that require chewing. My daughter’s boyfriend told my grandson that I have “bad manners,” which I felt was rude and out of line.

A: Yes, it was. And poor judgment, besides, to confide in your grandson. Miss Manners assures you that drinking water frequently is infinitely preferable to choking.

Q: When I mentioned to a new acquaintance that my mother died 25 years ago, she said, “I’m sorry.”

It struck me as odd, because I am 65 years old and my grief was resolved decades ago. Is it appropriate to express condolences regardless of how much time has passed since the death of someone close?

A: As opposed to saying, “Aren’t you over that yet?”

It is a peculiar task to expect someone to assess the state of relative grief-over-time with anyone, much less with a new acquaintance. That this person wished to express her sympathy is gracious — and Miss Manners would consider it less so for you to question that.

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,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.