Miss Manners: My husband’s colleagues won’t talk to me. Am I allowed to read at their events?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I sometimes find myself at an event where no one wants to talk to me.

My husband is a scientist, and at his conferences and other work events, the other guests are usually only interested in talking to fellow scientists in their field.  I was once sitting at a table in a bar, and the woman sitting next to me turned in her chair so that her back was to me and her front was to the person on the other side.

I understand that these people may have traveled a considerable distance and just want to gossip with their colleagues. But what can I do? I feel uncomfortable sitting by myself while the party goes on around me.

I usually check my phone. Can I bring a book? Should I learn to knit, like the faculty wives in Miss Pym’s books?

I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun by forcing them to talk to me. I avoid these situations when I can, but it’s not always possible.

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GENTLE READER:
Because you have been rudely and unfairly made to feel unwanted, Miss Manners is going to let you in on a secret: Far from being superfluous, you are the only indispensable person in the room at these events.

You are not elbowing your way onstage at a lecture on quantum chromodynamics. You are at a social event after the lecture — an event that was scheduled because, after last year’s conference, someone took a survey and the scientists all agreed that the conference would be improved by less shop talk and more socializing. Except that, when dropped into a hotel ballroom with an open bar (or a bar, in any case), none of those same scientists could think of anything else to talk about.

If you are charming and interesting — and have almost anything to talk about that is not science — you will win converts. And if it bolsters your confidence, imagine these same scientists back in high school (a technique that works in almost any profession, even if it is particularly apt in your case).

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know Miss Manners does not approve of checks as gifts, but if one receives a check — say, for Christmas — when should it be deposited? Is it OK to deposit it prior to the estimated arrival of a thank-you note, or should one wait a few days?

I don’t want to appear greedy, but by depositing the check immediately (I have a mobile banking app), the giver can confirm that their gift arrived.

GENTLE READER: Write the thank-you letter first. Otherwise, you will be tempted to put it off.

But there may be another reason to delay depositing the check. There is no absolute etiquette requirement that one wait for the actual birthday (for example) to open a present. But the patience demonstrated by waiting for the event that motivated the gift is charming.

Miss Manners recommends the same treatment in your case: You can cash the check on Christmas Day. That it will be a bank holiday is irrelevant.

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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.