Dear Miss Manners:
I have a gay friend I would love to introduce to a colleague who I suspect is gay. Ordinarily I would simply have them both to dinner, but the colleague lives several hours' drive away. If I were certain of his sexual preference, I would be straightforward and ask him if he'd like to meet my friend, but for professional reasons, I feel it would be indiscreet to try to discover this information by doing "undercover detective work." Do you have any suggestions?
Before you fix up anyone, you are supposed to know something about both people. If mere availability were the only qualification necessary, matchmaking, such as you are kindly interested in offering, would be unnecessary because just about anyone would do.
Miss Manners suggests asking the colleague what sort of person happens to interest him. If you pay attention to the pronouns in his reply, you will have your answer, as well as the crucial information about his tastes and availability.
Dear Miss Manners:
At my university, I am a member of the graduate student committee that makes decisions about funding for student groups. Our grants program is divided into grants for community service projects, projects furthering diversity, etc.
Often, student groups will apply under the wrong categories -- asking us for an activism grant when the committee thinks that their project would really fit the diversity category better, for instance. I tend to interpret the funding guidelines more narrowly than about half of the rest of the committee.
When I said that I didn't think that a certain project should be funded by a diversity grant, one of the other students on the committee started to explain to me, very patronizingly, why diversity was a worthy campus goal. I felt like she was calling me a racist, or insensitive at the very least.
At that point, I slammed my fist on the table, explained that I was one of two women in my graduate program, and well understood the value of diversity.
Did I react too strongly? I felt that if she was implying that I was bigoted, I had to defend myself. I had supported funding for several diversity projects at that meeting already; that particular one just didn't seem to fit.
Before "insensitive" became a euphemism for casual bigotry, it signified a failure to adjust one's behavior to properly fit the circumstances. In that sense, it was insensitive of you to slam your fist at a committee meeting, for whatever reason, and to take general remarks, however pompous, as personal insults.
The polite method of derailing such an orator is to voice agreement to the obvious, and then give voice to every committee member's dearest hope, which is that you get on with the business at hand so that everyone can be released. What you should have said was, "Yes, yes, we all agree on the objectives -- that's why we're here. The point we need to decide is whether this particular case advances diversity better than others."
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