Miss Manners: Quarantine or not, here’s how to get guests to leave

July 13 at 12:00 AM

Dear Miss Manners: In this day of staying home and isolating because of the coronavirus, what is a polite way to tell people it is time for them to leave?

I am a secret introvert who enjoys people, as long as there is some kind of interesting conversation. Ordinarily, when the party dies out, the dinner with friends starts to quiet or the social drink on the patio runs out of conversation, I have always been able to pull off the “I have a headache” or “I have to get up early” excuse.

Of course, those ploys don’t work now; everyone knows I have nowhere to be in the morning, and I don’t want anyone to worry that my headache is a coronavirus symptom.

Even trusting that the company was properly vetted and that they are starved for face-to-face socializing, Miss Manners sympathizes with you.

But you should not have been making excuses. As a guest, you are supposed to make the first signs of leaving, and should merely say how much you enjoyed yourself and that you look forward to seeing everyone again. And then you leave.

But you seem to be the host, virtual or actual, and under no circumstances are hosts supposed to cite their own need to clear the house. Fortunately, they are allowed to worry about the well-being of the guests.

Say, “Well, we’ve been so happy to see you, but I know you must be tired.” In person, the essential part is to stand up when you say it, and keep standing until they get to their feet, at which point you can graciously walk them to the door. Online, you need only wave and end the meeting.

Dear Miss Manners: Isn’t it proper to lift a chair instead of dragging it across the floor? That’s what my father told me. A friend doesn’t understand why the tenant below her yells up at her when she drags a chair across the floor. She calls him old and grumpy.

Thus adding insult to injury.

Miss Manners observes that you are having the wrong debate. The relevant question is, “Is it proper to annoy your neighbor?” and the answer is “No.”

Dear Miss Manners: My 90-year-old father, who has declined a bit cognitively with age, has a habit of striking up conversations with strangers. He tries to joke or make a comment in a good-natured way, but what he says can be unintentionally rude.

For example, he said, “I like to find people who look older than me” to a gentleman who was obviously at least 20 years his junior. In this particular instance, my siblings and I were caught off guard and could not come up with a suitable reply in a timely way.

What kind of response might offset the impact of my father’s inappropriate remarks without chastising my father for what he meant as a pleasant way to start a conversation?

A double job requires double smiles. Miss Manners suggests saying, “Father is a master of irony” while smiling apologetically at his target and then turning around to smile at him.

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

2020, by Judith Martin