DEAR MISS MANNERS: I, like many others, am a person who prefers to keep her political opinions private. For this reason, I do not like to discuss politics in social situations.
Lately I’ve had quite a few encounters in which a person will say: “Not to get political …” and then proceed to talk about politics. I will try to discreetly change the subject, but the person is often very determined to stay on the subject he or she brought up.
Normally I would end a political discussion by saying: “I’m sorry, but I really prefer not to discuss politics.” However, in this situation I feel uncomfortable doing that, as that seems to call out the person on his or her earlier assertion that he or she wasn’t going to talk about politics.
How do I politely let them know that I’m not comfortable with that topic of conversation?
GENTLE READER: “As you so wisely said, let’s not discuss politics.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My best friend continues to tell others (her family and friends) about all of our personal conversations, even when we have agreed not to. I have caught her repeating our personal conversations to others, and often her family and friends tell me what she has said to them.
I have asked many times nicely and also have shared my frustration/anger. She continues to share our business to others. She tells me often she will try and do better, and she is trying to work on not talking so much. Yet this still continues daily, and history continues to repeat itself.
What would Miss Manners tell me that I should say to my best friend?
GENTLE READER: She can tell you what NOT to say to your best friend: anything that you do not want spread around.
Miss Manners understands that part of best-friendship is supposed to be the ability to share confidences. But this always involves risk. A friend could be careless, or feel that it was all right to pass things on in supposed confidence. The friendship could end, and the friend might no longer feel bound to respect the agreement.
In this case, however, indiscretion is not a risk but a certainty. You should have learned by now that nothing works to stop your friend from gossiping about you. So your only protection is to stop giving her the material to do so.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am hosting a couple’s wedding shower. I asked for an RSVP and have received two responses that read simply, “RSVP for the shower for Helen and Bob.” There is no indication of declining or accepting.
I assume it is an acceptance. Is this proper?
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GENTLE READER: It’s meaningless. They have replied, which is something, but what have they replied?
Miss Manners puts this confusion down to our silly persistence in using a French abbreviation, when a lot of people seem not to have been paying attention in French class. RSVP means “please respond.”
Or maybe they failed to grasp the fact that although “s’il vous plait” translates literally as “if you please,” that only indicates politeness; it does not mean “only if you happen to feel like it.”
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.