DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude to “like” a person’s post that they are sad, or have sad things going on? I don’t want them thinking I am “liking” their sadness. I sympathize with them, is what I mean.
GENTLE READER: To express sympathy, it is essential to demonstrate that you are thinking about the person with whom you sympathize. A computer interface — the purpose of which is to reduce the time spent to an absolute minimum — will not convey this message convincingly.
If the depth of your sympathy extends as far as pressing a button, but not so far as writing a personal letter, Miss Manners fears that you are condemning yourself to being misunderstood.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son recently married his partner of many years, but now I do not know what to call him. Do I say my son-in-law when I mention him to others? I have heard men referring to their married partners as husbands, but how would I know which one is the husband — my son or his partner? Or are both my son and his partner husbands? I am very confu6sed and ashamed to ask my son.
GENTLE READER: The only part that confuses Miss Manners is that you are ashamed to ask your son. Why? Same-sex legal marriage being relatively new, it cannot be shameful to ask for preferred designations.
However, she can supply answers. Your son and his spouse are each other’s husband, and the spouse is your son-in-law. You should have had practice all those years in introducing them as each other’s partners.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a student worker at my university. We use cellphones quite frequently to communicate with each other and the other employees when they are needed.
The only other person in the office with me is the administrative assistant, and occasionally her phone will be lying on the desk, ringing, while she is in the back room. She invariably will yell at me to “grab that” and answer her phone for her.
When I pick up a friend’s phone, it is not difficult to say, “Rachel can’t talk now,” or, if I know the caller, to strike up a little conversation of my own. But in the office, it is usually her husband or one of her three children who is calling.
I never know how to answer, and usually fall back on my regular office-phone response: “Repair office, this is Susie.” All this does is confuse whoever is calling her. I have contemplated saying a simple “hello” or “hi,” but I am afraid this would involve interrupting the caller seconds later to explain that I am not who they think I am.
She has caller ID, so answering business calls is not such a problem. What would be the best way to answer personal ones?
GENTLE READER: Your professional response may confuse some callers, although it might also cause the university (or at least your supervisor) to re-examine the wisdom of conducting office business on personal telephones.
That would be preferable to dealing with the consequences of your inadvertently becoming party to something so personal that it embarrasses your careless co-worker. Failing that, Miss Manners would recommend the more neutral, “Hello, this is Rachel’s line. May I take a message for her?”