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Miss Manners: Son is unemployed in specialized field

Dear Miss Manners: My son is in a specialized field where jobs are hard to come by, but when they do, they are very profitable.

What can I say to nosy acquaintances who ask why he isn't working and tell me he should just take any job because he has to make money? I feel they don't understand the extreme specialty of his career choice and are just giving unsolicited advice.

It is for such situations that the title of “consultant” was invented. Who is to know whether he is working hard, dispensing sage advice for a profitable fee, even if he is not actually going to an office?

Miss Manners trusts this will be easy to maintain in a field that no one understands, so long as your son is willing to play along.

Dear Miss Manners: I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother-in-law, and we have gotten along well over the years. Although we are close, I still have to be careful not to hurt her feelings.

My issue is probably not as important as most, but I truly don't know how to handle it. My MIL lives a few states away from us, so when we go to visit, we stay for almost a week. I am a serious coffee drinker in the morning: I love, love, love my hot cup of coffee when I get up. I enjoy the ritual, the taste and the morning conversation.

So what's the problem? My MIL makes the worst cup of coffee I've ever had. She has an old drip coffee machine. When the coffee is done, it is barely warm and gets progressively colder as it sits. When I add cream, it becomes gray in color, and has a weak, nasty flavor. This coffee is bad.

Once I gently teased her about being one of the last few people to have a drip machine, and she was very defensive. I have subtly mentioned she should try some of the new individual-cup coffee makers, but the suggestion gets shot down quickly. I don't think she would be open to one as a gift, either.

Would it be rude for me to hop in the car and go get a cup of coffee from the local barista? Please tell me I don't have to drink her coffee!

If Miss Manners understands the problem correctly, the coffee is the priority, but hurting the mother-in-law would be a serious inconvenience and possibly also wrong.

Going out for coffee is an acceptable solution if you can avoid discussing your destination. A better one would be to have your spouse buy a new coffee maker “for the house” and plug it in without warning. Mothers have been known to forgive offspring for much more serious transgressions. Having your spouse pretend that it is for his or her comfort, not yours, will make things easier; calling it a gift will not.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2021, by Judith Martin