Miss Manners

Miss Manners: Members of Congress should look beyond their district lines

DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a few occasions, I’ve thought it would be good to share my feelings on something said by a member of Congress with that congressperson. I’m perplexed that on their Web sites, one must enter one’s ZIP code before proceeding to the comments section.

The folks in question are either about to vote on a bill that affects me, even though I’m not in their district, or they have made a great statement that I’d like to show support for. In either case, I’d think that if their action or statement has made national news, it might be good for them to hear from the public.

Do you know why they won’t communicate with non-constituents? The last time this happened, I wrote a letter and sent it through the mail. But I fear when the staff sees the out-of-district return address, they might toss it.

I’ve considered lying about where I live, but that goes against my principles. Can you provide any insight?

GENTLE READER: Short staff problem? Shortsighted problem?

Miss Manners asks you to consider that the office might have tallied your opinion, if it relates to a specific piece of legislation, without considering a reply necessary. It is a rare member of Congress who does not try to keep track of which way the wind is blowing. The trouble is that they are mostly interested in what’s blowing in their own districts.

Yes, of course that is their job. But as you point out, they also have larger responsibilities. And, not infrequently, larger ambitions. It would be a good idea to acknowledge interested voters outside their districts -- and not only the ones who throw money over the border.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have chosen to stay at home to raise my children despite having an advanced degree. I have found that this is a very unpopular decision and avoid mentioning it when possible, as others immediately assume that I am incapable of saying anything of interest on any topic.

Some individuals go a step further and expect me to defend my decision. Unfortunately, the reasons are such that I don’t wish to air them in public. Recently a dining companion addressed the issue thusly: “I can’t imagine what I would do with myself if I were home full time. How do you manage to keep yourself occupied?”

The demands at home are such that I have relatively little unencumbered time, and it is difficult to schedule it in advance, so I don’t have a major hobby. What interests I do have are not pursued with the intensity that would be expected for a lady of leisure.

Is there a polite way to finesse the subject so as to make my admission and move on, or do I just have to accept this as the natural fallout of my choice?

GENTLE READER: Oh, dear, when will that weary cycle of rudeness by which ladies attack one another over the home-work issue ever end? It has been exasperating Miss Manners for generations.

For a long time it was the home front attacking the work front; then, as you have experienced, it was reversed; and there are small signs that it might be reversing again. Whichever direction it takes, there is no excuse for trying to hold people to a one-size-fits- all standard.

She advises you not to dignify such comments with a serious reply. If you don’t wish to say, “I lounge around reading novels and eating chocolates” or, “My three lovers keep me busy,” just manage a weak smile and move on.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2011, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

 
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