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Miss Manners: No one speaks to me at my husband’s work conferences

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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 professional events, other guests are generally only interested in speaking to fellow scientists in their field. Once I was sitting at a table in a bar, and the woman sitting next to me turned in her chair so that she had her back to me and her forehead was facing the person of the other side.

I understand that these people may have traveled a considerable distance and just want to chat with their colleagues. But what can I do? I feel uncomfortable sitting all alone as the party unfolds around me. I usually check my phone. Can I bring a book? Should I learn to knit, like the college women in Miss Pym’s books?

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

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 during these events.

You’re not stomping your way onto the stage at a lecture on quantum chromodynamics. You’re at a social event after the conference – an event that was planned because, after last year’s conference, someone took a survey, and the scientists all agreed that the conference would be improved by less than chats and more socializing. Except, once dropped into a hotel ballroom with an open bar (or bar, anyway), none of those same scientists could think of anything else to say.

If you’re charming and interesting — and have almost everything you talk about that isn’t science — you’ll win converts. And if that boosts your confidence, imagine those same scientists back in high school (a technique that works in almost any profession, even if it’s particularly suited to you).

Dear Miss Manners: I know Miss Manners does not approve of gift checks, but if someone receives a check – say, for Christmas – when should it be deposited? Is it acceptable to drop it off before the estimated arrival of a thank you note or do we have to wait a few days?

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

Write the thank you letter first. Otherwise, you will be tempted to postpone it.

But there may be another reason for delaying the check deposit. There is no absolute etiquette requirement that one waits for the actual birthday (for example) to open a gift. But the patience shown in waiting for the event that prompted the donation is charming.

Miss Manners recommends the same treatment in your case: you can cash the check on Christmas Day. Whether it’s a holiday doesn’t matter.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at washingtonpost.com/board. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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