Dear Miss Manners: I am a vegetarian who has no desire to draw unnecessary attention to this fact. I don’t think that what I eat is anyone’s business, just as what others eat is not my business.
I have an acquaintance, Cheryl, who is a member of a club that I’m part of. The group eats together regularly, either at restaurants or potlucks. I’ve known Cheryl for many years, long enough for her to know that I don’t eat meat, but we are not close.
Cheryl seems to get a thrill out of “outing” me as a vegetarian in front of anyone who is new to our group or doesn’t already know.
If we’re eating out, she’ll find the vegetarian section of the menu (because I need help locating it?) and shriek, “They have meatless options for you, Jane!”
If the group is planning a potluck, Cheryl will always loudly make a point of stating that she will provide a vegetarian option “for Jane.” In any scenario, the group’s conversation stops for a moment while everyone glances at me nervously.
I am perfectly capable of ordering my own food, and I enjoy participating seamlessly in potlucks. I would never dream of introducing myself as a vegetarian to a new acquaintance, because I don’t feel that what I eat is my defining characteristic. How can I get Cheryl to stop “helping” me?
Gentle Reader: The next time you share a meal with Cheryl, Miss Manners recommends that you take her aside first and tell her that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself – and that you are sure there will be plenty of vegetarian options for you. If that doesn’t stop her from being officious, Miss Manners would allow you to point out the meat options to her. You may do this loudly enough for the others to hear, but good-humoredly, and not sounding as if you were admonishing her food choices or making a political statement.
Acquainted with a shoplifter
Dear Miss Manners: You’re going to think I’s kidding, but I would like some pointers on the appropriate greeting for a casual acquaintance who has been arrested for shoplifting.
“Hello, how are you?” seemed a little awkward in the circumstances. To ignore an acquaintance also seems rude. What is your recommendation?
Gentle Reader: The words are right; Miss Manners only needs to help you with the emphasis. The idea is to show some feeling for the person, without seeming to probe about the crime or endorse it. Thus, “Hello, how are you?”
This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send questions to Miss Manners at missmanners.com or to her email, email@example.com.