Miss Manners: Can I decline a handshake because of someone’s politics?


dear miss manners: I teach at a small university where, before covid, I regularly met with prospective students and their parents in my office on campus. Occasionally these parents are prominent in politics, and given the deep divisions in our political culture these days, I wonder how I should treat a parent whose positions I find abhorrent.

I would welcome the student as I would welcome anyone, and greet parents distantly but politely, as while on campus I try to be apolitical. But if that parent were to extend a hand, can I, and should I, refuse to take it, perhaps with a polite “Can’t I shake your hand?”

if i did he feels virtuous in doing so, and as long as he does not state the reason, but instead allows it to be thought that there is some physical reason why it is difficult for him to shake hands. In other words, him as long as he doesn’t intrude his politics into the situation, embarrassing, if not angering, both the student and his parents.

You are free to oppose these people and their views in the political arena. But to insult them personally is to set a standard of rudeness and compromise your commitment, as a teacher, to settle differences through discussion, not name-calling.

dear miss manners: I grew up with the saying that one should always ask, “What can I bring?” when they invite you to dinner If the answer is “Just yourself” (the most polite answer, I’m told), always bring something anyway, like a nice bottle of wine.

When I host dinner parties, I never expect anyone to bring anything. (Between you and me, I’d rather you don’t, since I have a meal planned. Although, if you do, I appreciate it.) But I have a friend who invites me to dinner and then responds to my “What can I bring?” with a long and detailed shopping list: bring this specific wine, bread from this certain bakery, this exact salad (with a linked recipe), etc.

That seems fine if it’s a potluck dinner, but is it really okay to ask someone to bring $70 worth of liquor and groceries, and send them on a scavenger hunt, when you invite them?

What is the best answer to “What can I bring?”

How about you don’t ask? the question? With all due respect to her upbringing, Miss Manners believes it is time to stop this much abused practice.

dear miss manners: A friend of many years has returned several birthday gifts or “just because” that I have given her.

He returns the items a few months after receiving them and tells me he doesn’t wear them or doesn’t care about the color. I put a lot of thought into these gifts and I live on a fixed income. I feel embarrassed when she does this and she doesn’t say anything back.

Please tell me what to tell him, if there is anything. I have stopped giving him gifts after the last one he returned to me.

but you’ve already done it resolve the problem. Miss Manners agrees that people who do not like receiving gifts should not submit to receiving them.

The new Miss Manners columns are published Monday through Saturday at washingtonpost.com/advice. You can submit questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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