Dear Miss Manners • I married my beautiful wife two years ago. We are both professionals in our early 30s. She is two years older than me. About a year ago, she had an accident and now has to use a cane — something she will probably have to do for the rest of her life. My wife also dresses modestly, which is an attribute that I love about her.
Whenever we are out in public or meet new clients, I’ve had people refer to her as my mother instead of my wife.
How do I respond to people when they make an assumption that my wife is my mother? Most people do not do it with any malicious intent, but it does lead to some awkward moments. I don’t want to cause further embarrassment to those people, or make my wife feel bad — which she has on several occasions.
Gentle Reader • Look around as if the person is seeing someone that you do not, and say, “Oh, no, my mother couldn’t be here.” And then Miss Manners suggests that you pause and say as a separate thought, “Allow me to introduce my wife, Esmerelda.”
Dear Miss Manners • I am a young woman with moderate-to-severe hearing loss. I am open about being hard of hearing, and tell people so it’ll be easier on both of us communicating.
Yet throughout my life, I’ve dealt with comments about how I talk, cruel jokes to “test” my hearing, fake, crude sign-language jokes, accusations of being rude, and even name-calling, in response to “ignoring” someone I honestly didn’t hear.
When I ask people if they could repeat themselves or please look at me while talking, I am often met with “never mind” or “I’ll tell you later.” Some people have even taken my husband aside and told him to put me on disability, as though I were too incompetent to make my own decisions. Is there a way to politely deal with such people?
Gentle Reader • “I appreciate your concern” — particularly when their so-called concern is in the form of rude jokes, insults or unhelpful suggestions — “but there are some things I am better off not hearing. If you could kindly speak up, I am sure that I would be better able to respond to any polite remarks you might make.”
Dear Miss Manners • I was asked by a friend to be a bridesmaid at her upcoming wedding! She and I are both wondering how to handle breaking this news to others in our friend circle who are not included in the small wedding party (and who are attending). I’m hoping you can recommend suggestions for phrasing and timing, as it will eventually become evident.
Gentle Reader •: There is no kind way to say, “Sorry, you just aren’t special enough of a friend to stand up at my wedding.” As you said, it will become evident — and if it is a small wedding party, the ranking and reasoning for it will be implied.
Allowing the others to accept the oversight graciously (i.e., hearing by word of mouth and without a formal decree) is the only way to handle it. Any hurt feelings will likely be pacified when the others realize the financial pressure and duties that they have narrowly escaped. Miss Manners suggests that you do them the added favor of not suggesting that they contribute anyway.
Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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