I was understandably reluctant, yet he insisted the meeting could only be at his hotel. This seemed like something of a red flag. I could not find someone to accompany me, and my friends all urged me not to go under the circumstances. I ended up declining and have always had some painful feelings about it. My discomfort with being placed in that position tainted what limited interactions we had after that.
Even if the visit had been uneventful, he’s a married man, and had we been seen together at that time of night at his hotel, it would have led to speculation and done harm to both our professional reputations. If we had met previously, or if there had not been such a massive power gap, I could possibly see taking that meeting. But with a man I had never met, it seemed like a very bad idea.
Was this a normal, reasonable thing to ask, and I was simply being a prude? Should I have gone?
Do you not read the news? Or are you basing this scenario on a notorious case that happened to someone else?
Miss Manners assures you that whatever pain one could feel about this missed opportunity would be nothing compared to the negative feelings had the situation been taken advantage of.
Dear Miss Manners: At holiday gatherings, I often see a relative with whom I have an uneasy relationship. I am striving to make things friendlier between us.
Frequently, when I say something that I think is innocuous, such as, “There is an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York,” he immediately fires back with, “I know where the Metropolitan Museum is!” as if I had insulted his intelligence.
First, how can I keep a know-it-all watch on myself, so that I avoid every appearance of condescension? And second, how can I respond to him in the manner most likely to mollify his feelings?
Your relative is indulging in what is known as insult collecting: searching for insult where obviously none was intended. Some people are quite skilled at this, and they can turn the most innocuous remarks into a grievance.
But you know that. You also know that censoring yourself will not help; the merest pleasantry can be taken for sarcasm.
So you should be bracing yourself to say, “Of course you know more about museums than I do, but I just wanted to be clear. Are there other Metropolitan Museums in the world?”
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.