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Miss Manners: Office party demands discretion

Dear Miss Manners: I am going to my husband’s first Christmas party with his company. I have been informed that one of his employees thinks of himself as the smartest person in the company and lets you know it at every opportunity. Any suggestions for comebacks that are not immediately known as a letdown?

Gentle Reader: Does your husband know about this?

No, not about the braggart at the office. Of course he’s the one who told you. But does he know about your plan to use his confidential complaint to antagonize one of his new colleagues?

Oh, yes, you wanted something subtle from Miss Manners. If it is too subtle, there is no point. If it is not, you will have insulted someone with whom your husband has to work.

Only the lonely

Dear Miss Manners: We just moved to a very small town away from all of our family and friends. Due to a back injury, I am unable to cook Christmas dinner.

It is just my husband and me, so would it be inappropriate to post on Facebook a request for an invite to spend Christmas with somebody local?

Gentle Reader: Or you could stand outside on Christmas Day with a sign that says “I’m hungry.”

Meals are customarily offered to the destitute on Christmas. Also, many people make a point of including friends who might otherwise be socially stranded then.

As people who could fend for themselves, as you do on other days, you are not eligible for the former; and as newcomers without acquaintances in town, you are unlikely to be sought out.

But even if some generous soul should take you in, there would be others whose first and possibly lasting impression will be of you as freeloaders.

Miss Manners highly recommends your turning this situation upside down by making it known that you are available on Christmas to help with any existing assistance to the needy. Despite your back problem, you could, for example, offer to do desk work, such as organizing or keeping track of the inventory, or to greet people and see that their needs are met.

That way, you will meet hospitable people and make yourselves known as newcomers who want to contribute to the town.