DEAR MISS MANNERS: I encountered two local celebrities at separate social events. These people are well-known, but not so famous that they would assume everyone knows who they are. These were family events, not related to the work that underlies their prominent status in the community.
What is the appropriate way to indicate that I knew who they were while I was being introduced to them? There was an awkward imbalance created when I knew so much more about them than they knew about me.
GENTLE READER: Could you honestly have said, “I admire your work”? If not, perhaps a cordial, “I know you by reputation.”
Or not. Miss Manners asks you to consider the possibility that such a person might not want to act the public figure at informal family gatherings. You might just introduce yourself the way you would meet any guest.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Or should I say “Hi, Miss Manners!”?
I have noticed that all email, and lots of snail letters, even business ones, start with “Hi” instead of “Dear.” I don’t like it, especially from strangers or when it concerns business. But if I continue to write “Dear,” will people think I am sending them love letters?
GENTLE READER: Or spam. Miss Manners has noticed that spammers have adopted versions of “Dear one” as a salutation, sometimes ratcheting it up to “Beloved.”
They, too, seem to be interpreting it as ingratiating affection, rather than a neutral convention.
Miss Manners is not quite ready to let go of the conventional “Dear” salutation, and agrees with you that “Hi!” seems cheeky. But she is open to ideas if anyone can think of something simple and dignified.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner and I have attempted to go to at least one cultural event — a museum, concert or play — each month. One thing troubles me: At the end of nearly every live performance we have attended, the audience members jump to their feet and give the performers a standing ovation.
I can understand this when the performers are students or amateurs, and the audience is made up of family members. But now it seems that a standing ovation is given for every show, no matter how well performed.
I understood that a standing ovation was reserved for exceptional performances, and I have leapt to my feet at some outstanding productions. Now, however, there seems to be a race to see who can stand up the fastest. On the other hand, one does not wish to be the only one retaining their seat.
Should one join in this overwrought exercise, if only to begin one’s egress from the venue?
GENTLE READER: No. But you will not be alone, because Miss Manners is going to remain seated unless the performance is truly outstanding, or she is related to the performers.
What you are describing is ovation inflation, the entertainment world’s equivalent of grade inflation in academia. Audiences have surrendered their privilege of passing judgment on professional performances, with the sweet but mistaken idea that they must thank the performers for showing up, whether or not they succeeded.
But this, in turn, robs the performers of the possibility of earning genuine tributes, instead of robotic ones. If everyone is outstanding, no one is standing out.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.