Q. My husband has taken quite an important new job, and I was the subject of a lengthy interview for an article about our so-called life style. I assure you that I will never do that again. I have never been so embarrassed in my life, nor felt so betrayed.
A nice young woman came to my house, and I gave her tea and then, because it grew late, sherry and some beautiful little sandwiches and cakes (from a party we'd had the night before). We chatted about many things, including her boyfriend, and got quite friendly.
I thought of including her at our next party, because we have some quite interesting people, and it might make another story for her. You can imagine my horror when I saw that she had violated the spirit of the visit by printing every little thing I said, even little things about or new friends in high places, which look insulting in print.
It is true, as she said when I complained to her boss, that I had not specified that anything was "off the record." I didn't think I needed to, because I assumed that she had the good sense to know what was proper for her article and what not. I was not after all, holding a press conference: I was acting as hostess in my own drawing room.
I wish you would say something about this particular form of rudeness and bad manners. Personally, I plan to reply to any press question in the future, no matter what the circumstances, with "no comment." I may sound abrupt myself, but at least I'll be safe.
A. Not necessarily. Miss Manners remembers another lady in your position making such a resolve, the result of which was that after dancing with the president of the United States at the inaugural ball, a reporter asked her how she had enjoyed the dance, and she replied, "No comment."
Miss Manners feels you would be better advised to learn the differences between friends and working people. It is true that the same people can be both at different times, and also that a great deal of money and effort is put into blurring the distinction to gain professional advantage. Your safety, as you call it, would be in learning to see clearly through that blur.
Your interview was not a social occasion. You tried to make it seem so, with your tea and leftovers, in the hope that you would inhibit your visitor with the restrictions people have, when they visit their friends socially, of speaking well of them afterwards. The interviewer added to the social air, to the extent of chatting about her own life, in the hope that you would feel the conversational freedom of a hostess among friends. The evidence shows that you were taken in by her ruse, but she was not taken in by yours.
The ability to distinguish between business being conducted in social settings and a true social life among real friends will be of enormous value to you, not only now, but later. Have a good time with your "new friends in high places," but learn which ones turn into real friends, and which you see because of mutual professional advantage.
This will save you the trouble, when your husband no longer holds his position, of moaning about the fickleness of those whom you value only because of their professional positions.