Dear Miss Manners: I recently attended a dinner party where one of the other guests was someone whom I had met once, several years ago, and hadn’t seen since. At that time, we were part of a large group visiting a park. Apparently she and I spent an hour or two walking around together and talking.
To be honest, I had no recollection of this event. She asked whether I remembered, and seemed somewhat surprised and offended when I said I didn’t.
After the dinner, a family member told me that I should’ve just nodded and said, “Oh, yes, I remember, what a pleasant afternoon,” or something like that. I was worried that I would be caught out in a lie — I’m not a good liar — and just confessed that I didn’t remember. What do you think I should have done?
Certainly not asserted something that would quickly be revealed as untrue.
Taking serious offense when someone fails to remember you requires there to have been enough contact that a reasonable person would remember — multiple introductions, for example, or having been married.
A single, long-ago conversation, even one of several hours, does not seem to qualify. However, Miss Manners cautions you to remember that neither is it a compliment to be forgotten. What your response lacked was an apology for forgetting, followed by a friendly change of subject.
Dear Miss Manners: We rent out rooms in our home, and all tenants pitch in with chores. We are a bit like a blended family.
My husband came into a community room (the kitchen) where a tenant and I were already present. He proceeded to lecture me, saying I needed to let the tenants know about doing the dishes and not allowing them to pile up.
The tenant spoke up and said he had been doing dishes, and did not care who had dirtied them.
At this, my husband got irate and said: “This is a conversation between me and my wife. If I want your input, I will ask for it.”
I believe my husband was in the wrong, and that if he wanted a private conversation, we should not have had it in a community area with a tenant present. Please advise us on the proper etiquette for private conversations.
Have them in private, which means out of earshot of the tenants. Miss Manners also does not look kindly on barking at tenants, business partners or relatives, real or assumed.
Dear Miss Manners: As a physical therapist, I meet many people. Sometimes I do not know how to pronounce a new patient’s surname.
We clinicians introduce ourselves by our first names, but I feel it would be disrespectful to greet a client with their first name until asked to do so, especially at a first meeting. What would be a polite way to address someone and ask for the correct pronunciation of their name?
“How do you do? I want to say your name correctly, so could you help me by telling me how you pronounce it?”
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
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