Dear Miss Manners: I am unusually bad at remembering names and faces. I make an effort to remember people that I will see again, but there are a lot of people I meet in passing who are beyond my capacity. This is especially awkward at times, because I appear to be easily remembered by other people.
Usually I can fake things well enough and use context clues to make small talk until it is time to mingle with someone new. (And may I take a moment to sincerely thank those people who work a reintroduction into their greetings?) But what do I do when someone corners me on my memory and is offended by the results?
At a wedding shower, I was approached by someone who asked whether I recognized her. I tried self-deprecating humor about my memory, but she doubled down on the question and was clearly hurt when I had to admit I still didn't recognize her.
Miss Manners, if what she said is accurate, we've met at most half a dozen times during my childhood, none more recently than 15 years ago. She was an adult, and her relationship was with my aunt, not with me.
On that basis, I can't think why either of us should be expected to remember the other — but saying so, while honest, didn't seem kind. I tried for a joke about how we would have to meet more often, but it clearly didn't help.
My family is at a point where I can expect these kinds of social events more often — probably even with this same woman — and I would like to be prepared. What is the polite response when you don't recognize someone, and they know it?
Adults sometimes flatter themselves that the impression they leave on the impressionable is greater than it is. And while it is hurtful to be forgotten, that is a reason not to challenge others’ memories.
Miss Manners applauds you for both apologizing, and for your self-deprecation, although it is quite understandable that you failed this rude test. You will no doubt recognize this particular woman when you see her again, and can offer her a touch more attention — or remember her well enough to stay away from her.
Generally, you should make a habit of telling people your name preemptively, so that they can reply that of course they know you.
Dear Miss Manners: At our condo's recent annual meeting at a nearby clubhouse, one of the members ordered dinner for her daughter and herself. They ate while the other 25 or so members took care of business.
She explained that she and her daughter did not have time to eat beforehand because they were at a spa all day. I did not think much of her etiquette. What do you think?
Not herself a fan of conducting business with one’s mouth full at all, Miss Manners agrees that two people eating while everyone else abstains is even more disagreeable. This is easily solved by removing the temptation: Clubhouses can provide rooms without immediate access to food, and the club staff can be asked to tell the hungry that there is food available downstairs.