DEAR MISS MANNERS: I joined Facebook when I had cancer, as a way of posting my current status. I was following others’ suggestions and did not like it for this use. I do, however, like it for other reasons. I can keep an eye on my daughter, as well as my nieces and nephews.

I can also reconnect with old friends and, as a nostalgic person, I enjoy this. I also enjoy the ability to share photographs of said friends. I befriend only people I have fond memories of, or whom I just liked.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean I actually want to resume an old friendship! As a mother of young kids who works part time and volunteers, I have a hard enough time finding time for my friends and myself as it is.

Now an old friend in a nearby town has befriended me. While I enjoyed her company in my 20s, the friendship ended when I realized how badly she was an alcoholic. Still, there were things I really enjoyed about her.

Now, 15 years later, she mentioned on Facebook that she would like to get together. I don’t know if alcohol is still a problem, but I just can’t extend myself that far, both in terms of where she lives and the potential for toxicity.

Can you think of a polite way to tell her (or others in similar situations) that I really enjoyed hearing from her and seeing her occasional posts, her family, etc., but that I don’t particularly want to reconnect with her in person? Am I kidding myself about the possibility of a polite way to convey such a message?

GENTLE READER: No, there is no polite way to tell someone that you want to know their personal business but don’t actually want to talk to them. This phenomenon used to be known as gossip, and in Miss Manners’s opinion, Facebook has ruined its fun for everyone.

When you want to avoid human contact, the usual social rules apply. Tell her that this is an extremely busy time for you, but that you hope to connect in the (unspecified) future. To make it more convincing, for goodness’ sake don’t post your social life on Facebook for awhile.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude to want to shake someone’s hand while they are eating?

GENTLE READER: It’s messy.

Miss Manners fails to see why it would be necessary. If the two are eating together, it’s a bit late to shake hands, and if one person has just come upon the other, say at a restaurant, the greeting should be fleeting enough not to require the diner to swivel or stand in order to reach out a hand.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of my friends couldn’t make it to my baby shower, so she had her gift sent to me after I said that I gave birth to a little boy. How do I properly word a thank-you note to someone for a gift that was very clearly for a little girl?

GENTLE READER: “George loves the pink tutu and can’t wait to start taking ballet classes.”

On the off chance that it was indeed intentional, Miss Manners is hoping to spare you a lecture on early gender identification.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

, by Judith Martin