Miss Manners: How am I going to meet my next ex-wife if I’m working from home?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: You’ve always advised against mixing social life with work, although I’m not sure why. And now I read that the generation entering the workforce agrees with you, and is not particularly interested in having work friends.

Hey, I miss my office friends now that we’re working from home! Work was also where I met women. I met my ex-wife at a previous job. (Sure, we all know you’re not supposed to date at the office, but we all do.)

I like my job, but the higher-ups are OK with people coming in just once or twice a week. So when people do come in, they need to spend the time looking like they’re really working, if you know what I mean, and not being friendly like we used to.

Frankly, I’m lonely a lot of time, and I bet I’m not the only one. I tried going to coffee shops where people work during the day, but they’re all pounding away on their laptops or yapping on the phone. I can’t just break in and get acquainted.

What do you suggest? I’m tired of having only virtual “friends,” who are probably not even who they say they are.

GENTLE READER: What about those work friends whom you miss? Don’t you see them after work hours?

And if not, were they really friends? Or just agreeable co-workers?


Yes, real friendships are sometimes made at work. Miss Manners’ caution was to apply a test: If you were fired, would they still be your friends? Or, in your case: If they don’t see you as a matter of course, will they make an effort to see you?

Even without the pandemic, we would have been due for a reaction against the all-work-and-no-play pattern that was prevalent. Or rather, all-work-and-work-related-play. Work, including after-hours gatherings and retreats, was expected to trump personal commitments and obligations. People felt defined by, and defined one another by, their jobs, with family- or child-related work the least rewarded.

At the same time, society’s social structures fell into disuse. Wives whose husbands had supported the family entered the workforce themselves and no longer had time to run the social, civic and religious activities that threw people together.

Businesses tried to turn this to their advantage, setting up after-hours drinks and retreats to promote pseudo-socializing among employees. But the pandemic made many people realize that they might prefer to spend time with those they had chosen themselves -- such as their families -- rather than with whomever their employer had happened to hire.

But you enjoyed such associations and found them a source of friendships. Now that this has been withdrawn, you are on your own.

The comfort Miss Manners can offer you is that such work patterns were so common that there must be others in your position. Starting with those work friends, take the initiative in organizing informal get-togethers, and encourage them to bring others.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in the city, with driveways that are close together. I was playing cards on my front porch, and the neighbor’s car was sitting right next to us in their driveway, with the windows open. It started to rain.

Do I call the neighbor to tell them? Or would that be intrusive?

GENTLE READER: Telling neighbors that their teenager left the car windows open would be intrusive. Saving them from wet upholstery is neighborly.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to