Dear Miss Manners: Sometimes people will ask me for something, and then as soon as they hear the beginning of an answer that they didn’t want, they interrupt and quickly insist that they were “just joking.”
What is the best way to tell someone “no” when we need to, and ask them to drop the “just joking” ruse?
Why? The ruse allows them to save face and for you to laugh it off rather than having to decline — or actually give them what they want.
Sorry, but Miss Manners finds it to be an excellent cover and convenient solution for you. Second only to not being asked at all.
Dear Miss Manners: I’ve graduated from school and started my first full-time, permanent job. I’ve never been happier. I have friends, lovely co-workers, and I truly enjoy my field. Also, after 27 years on this Earth, I am finally financially independent and free of my parents.
I don't want to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that they were extremely controlling. They supported me financially, for which I am extremely grateful, but they made it clear that their support hinged on my absolute obedience. Part of my obedience was hiding the fact that I am a lesbian, because they are very homophobic.
I would like to put all of this in the past, and I’ve made some great steps! I have come out to everyone else in my life and established boundaries with my parents.
The trouble I'm having now is that my co-workers seem to find “How do you get on with your folks?” to be an appropriate getting-to-know-you question. I like these people and I assume they are trying to be friendly, but I have no idea what the appropriate response is.
Whether it is a peer or a boss, I find myself floundering for an answer that doesn’t make me seem ungrateful to my parents or rude to the asker. Is it acceptable to just say that it’s personal? Should I lie and say we get along well?
“They are doing quite well, thank you.”
Yes, Miss Manners realizes that this does not strictly answer the question. But inquiring into the specifics of familial dynamics is impudent and prying — and a line of questioning that most people would be happy to avoid answering themselves.
Dear Miss Manners: I feel very fortunate to be able to retire early. When people learn of my upcoming retirement, I’m often asked, “What will you do?”
I know it’s a common question, but I don’t think older people would be asked this question with the same subtext, which seems to indicate I must do SOMETHING.
I do have travel, hobbies and volunteer activities to pursue, but I don’t plan to work again. What is a polite response to “What will you do?” that doesn’t justify how I’ll spend my time?
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.
© 2023 Judith Martin
More from Advice
Ask Sahaj: My husband’s family stays for weeks, but he doesn’t consult me
Ask Amy: Daughter divulges sexuality, sets off rumor mill
Miss Manners: Siblings at odds over brother’s ex
Ask Elaine: I’m moving across the world. How do I put myself out there?