The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Miss Manners: Is it rude to chime in during a conversation with something I might forget later?

Dear Miss Manners: During casual conversations, my mother would suddenly interrupt, as politely as she could, with something like, “Oh! Please excuse me, but if I don’t mention this now, I will surely forget!”

Then she would say whatever it was that she had been meaning to say, but would otherwise have invariably forgotten until it was too late (e.g., the person had gone home or the phone call ended).

Now that I am a senior myself (with a senior memory!), I am finding this tactic very useful, but worry that it will seem as though my mind has been wandering while the person is talking. More often than not, they have simply said something that jogged my memory. Like my mother, I find that if I don't say something when I think of it, I'll forget until the opportunity has passed.

Is this sort of interruption acceptable, even if the information conveyed may not be terribly important?

Not really. It assumes that the interruption has more value than what was being interrupted. And it could transfer to the other person that same problem of losing a train of thought.

However, Miss Manners does sympathize with the problem. Shall we compromise by using a short interruption?

Suppose you smile and hold up a hand (unless you are on the telephone, in which case you can make a note on the telephone pad), saying, “Remind me to tell you about the time I also went bear hunting.” If you are urged to tell that story immediately, you must reply, “No, no, I want to hear what you were saying first.”

Dear Miss Manners: We’re all family, sitting on the porch in a circle. I’m on the edge closest to nature, and there are many beautiful tropical birds to watch while they feed on bananas. I’ve put my back to the matriarch. I thought since we were casual, it was okay. They’d also put out lots of bananas! Was I supposed to go to another location to watch the birds?

They’re telling me I’m rude! B.S., I say!

And will that convince them that you are polite?

Miss Manners considers it time to learn that there are some battles not worth fighting. Rather than getting into an argument, you can say, however insincerely, “Oops, sorry, I was watching the birds and didn’t realize I had my back to you.”

Dear Miss Manners: I left my sunglasses at a very good friend’s home, and she set them aside for me. Several months later, when we saw each other again, she went to retrieve them for me and they were gone.

She’s looked everywhere, and has asked anyone who has been in her home, but turned up empty-handed. Should she offer to replace them? I am a little bothered that she hasn’t.

As Miss Manners notices that you and your friend are both careless, and you were careless first, it would be kind of you to treat this with some sympathy. You were the first one to lose those glasses, so it hardly befits you to charge her for having done the same. The most you can do is occasionally ask her to take another look.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin