Today’s Miss Manners column. If you hang with it to the last sentence, you will be rewarded.
Miss Manners: Use vagueness and humor to deflect nosy questions
Dear Miss Manners: My husband has a movement disorder and neurological condition that is going to get much, much worse. It is clear from things he says (there are “filter’’ issues) and from his balance issues that he is ill.
Strangers and neighbors bluntly ask what is wrong. I simply say my husband is private about his health, but is there something better I could say? Even firmer? I am getting annoyed but have been worried about hurting people’s feelings.
When he is rude to strangers in public, it baffles them, hurts their feelings, and humiliates and worries me. My response is to take him out of the public place and get him settled in the car, and then go back and thank the person for their kindness to someone who is clearly ill. Is there a better way?
When we are invited out socially, unless it is by someone who knows us well, I always feel I have to refuse. Is there a polite way to accept an invitation for myself but make it clear he won’t be able to come? I simply cannot enjoy these things if I know he is going to say something horrible to people who are hosting us. As it stands, I simply thank people and refuse. And I would want to reciprocate, but again . . . his behavior in our home is unpredictable, so my social life is pretty much shutting down.
It is surely small consolation, but the more common filter issue these days is people who are fully capable of controlling their impulses, but choose not to.
Miss Manners does not suggest that you pretend that your husband is one of those people. Rather, it might be a relief for others to hear that, in this case, there is a medical reason for the disorder. She hopes that healthy people do not glom onto similar excuses for their own rudeness.
If versions of “I am afraid that he is not well’’ (also a perfectly good reason for him to stay home when you are invited out) do not satisfy nosy inquiries, however, you may provide some levity by saying, “It is an unfortunate condition, but at least he is not running for office.’’