Dear Miss Manners: In the middle of a business transaction, I’m often asked, “So, what do you have planned for the rest of your day?”
Even my hairstylist, whom I like very much, and who doesn't chatter excessively (a trait I appreciate), has started asking me that question — sometimes two or three times in one appointment. With a sales clerk, at least I can dash out of the store. But with my stylist, I'm stuck there for almost two hours.
If I answer with my actual plans, such as running errands, it sounds so dull. I'm tempted to say, “Well, I'm running numbers for the mob, then fleeing the country.” But then I'd have to top that at my next appointment, and in any case, I don't like lying.
I understand that they are at a loss for how to keep the small talk going, and this question is standard practice these days, but I feel that what I’m doing later is none of their business. Every time this happens, I’m at a loss for what I can say to politely change the subject.
Your boring errands may be your best defense.
As you say, people are just looking for conversation — and Miss Manners knows that this particular question is in vogue now. But if you do not like it, you can indeed change the subject and create an opening for them to blather on instead: “Oh, nothing interesting, I'm afraid. How about you? Anything fun planned for the rest of your day?”
Dear Miss Manners: My family was invited to a birthday party for a friend’s child. We happily let them know that we’d all attend, but at the last minute, I stayed home with my sick daughter. My husband and son attended and had a great time.
When they were leaving, my husband was handed an envelope containing a thank-you card, wherein the hosts expressed their appreciation for us (all) attending and for the (presumably) generous gift.
While I appreciate the thank-you card, I can’t help feeling a bit strange that it was written in advance. This is a new one for me. I’m very curious what your take is on this new practice.
That it is not new. Many tactics have been devised to lessen the supposed burden of giving proper thanks, including electronic versions of the notes you describe. Some hosts ask guests to fill out their own addresses on envelopes during the party, while others farm out the task entirely to unsuspecting relatives.
Miss Manners supposes that she should be grateful that thank-you letters are being written at all. But until the obvious solution — not giving out presents to those who do not authentically thank you for them — is implemented, modeling good behavior yourself is all that can be reasonably done.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
©2022 by Judith Martin