Q.As a young, single female and recent college graduate, I find that much of the business world assumes (erroneously) that I have a vested interest in all young, single males with whom I interact.

At a recent promotional event for my company, a female employe of the host location probed for my opinion of Bill, also an employe of the host location, by loudly asking, "Don'tcha think Bill is cute?"

Angered at the pubescent nature of her question, yet not wanting to hurt Bill's ego, my response was, "When?"

This sent my female co-worker into gales of laughter, and earned a glowering look and forced smile from Bill. Had I said yes, a proclamation of my attraction to Bill (and I had none) would have been made; had I said no, Bill would have been mortally offended.

As it was, I spent the rest of the evening working with Bill at arm's length, due to his new-found suspicion (despise?) of me, because of this offhand question.

How can one tactfully ease out of such an unsolicited situation, particularly when one is in the position of maintaining good public relations for one's employer?

A. Nobody asked Miss Manners' opinion of Bill, but she thinks he's a dud. Your response to an impossible question was both ingenious and funny, and she fails to see how any sensible person could be offended, rather than amused, by it.

However, she understands that it is not a good business policy to allow anyone, however humorous, to go away disgruntled.

The tactful thing to say when you observed this (and which you may still put in a note) was, "I hope I didn't embarrass you by my little joke. The fact is, I was put on the spot, and was only defending myself from the embarrassment of being asked to pass judgment on a businessman, who I believe deserves to be treated with more dignity."