Miss Manners: How do I respond to greetings with impolite undertones?

Dear Miss Manners: How can one respond when bumping into a friend they haven’t seen in a year or so, and the first thing the friend says is, “Where have YOU been? You haven’t been around in ages!”

The tone of voice suggests that I am hiding and being unsocial, when in fact the friend hasn’t reached out to me, either, during that time. It puts me on the defensive to explain why I haven’t been in touch with them.

I also experience this at a nonprofit organization where I have been a volunteer for years, helping out when my schedule allows. A couple of people who spend a regular amount of time there greet me with, “Oh, are you here to help today?”

Of course they know I am there to volunteer, and their catty tone suggests that they’d almost forgotten about me. Meanwhile, I have been at the organization longer than they have and even helped to train them! I just don’t know how to respond to such remarks.

Though such greetings are understandably off-putting, Miss Manners notes that they gain the greeter nothing when they appear to slide off the recipient without effect. Whether this means responding with “Oh, you know me — busy, busy, busy!” or “Where have YOU been hiding? It really has been a long time” will depend on how much time and effort you wish to invest.

Dear Miss Manners: When did it become acceptable for a guest coming and staying at your house not to tell you the day they are arriving and the day they are leaving?

This is constantly happening with a relative of mine. Yes, we have told her, and her bore of a husband, multiple times that we need the specific dates. We thought we had it licked this last time, as she told us on Tuesday that they would be arriving on Friday. That gave us a day and a half of notice. But when they got here, they would not tell us when they were leaving. I could not get them to tell us until the day before they left.

My mother is 90 years old and has to plan all the meals, etc., when they visit. I did the cleaning, which is difficult because I also work full time. They never once complimented the house, the cooking or the little things my mother did to make their visit nice.

When did this become okay? My mother won’t let me approach them to make it crystal clear, as she thinks I am being rude.

Your mother does not think you are being rude, dear. She thinks you intend to be rude, and she is right to stop you, if only until you slow down enough to allow for there being more than 36 hours between Tuesday and Friday.

Hosts can set the dates in advance: “Please come on Friday and stay until Monday.” It was never polite for a guest to arrive unannounced or outstay an invitation, but that never justified rudely demanding a departure date.

Miss Manners also wonders who has been sinned against in this case, if your mother is, as she appears to be, the hostess and perhaps also the owner of the establishment.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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