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Miss Manners: Miss Manners: Tell persistent suitor to please go away

Dear Miss Manners: There is a young man I met through mutual friends at college who has been asking me out. I considered him an acquaintance — an acquaintance I had become increasingly unfond of.

He likes to be argumentative (I am sure he thinks of it more as intellectual debate), and I have actually found him rather offensive (although I am sure he does not know). I avoid arguing or disagreeing with him, and he now thinks that we have everything in common and lots to discuss.

He has asked me out to lunch/dinner, and it has not been easy to say no. He asks things like, are you free anytime this week? How do I tell someone, who may see me on campus not being busy, that I am available never?

On one occasion I made a move to avoid him (I didn't think it was that obvious), and he asked me about it later (I made up some mostly true excuse).

Do I need to tell him I don't like him, not even as a friend, leave me alone? (He is friends of some good friends of mine and I might have to see him sometimes if I want to see them.) Miss Manners, how does a lady navigate this situation?

Gentle Reader: As a rule, Miss Manners does not care for discouraging unwanted suitors by a frank declaration of distaste.

Proponents of this technique argue that it is kinder than the conventional subterfuges that you have employed because it is quick and final. But the natural temptation to supply reasons means that this quickly descends into insults. And the objects of such talks, having shown themselves insensitive to the euphemistic approach, often bring on their own doom by demanding reasons.

So while you must proceed to a more direct statement, Miss Manners hopes you will keep it civil as well as clear. Say merely, "I'm sorry, but I'm not interested." Should he attempt to pursue the topic, you should repeat, "I don't know, but I am really not interested. Goodbye."

Dear Miss Manners: I have been invited to a baby shower for a friend's second child. The first one is just turning 2 years old. I always thought baby showers were for your first child and you used the baby items again for your second child. To me it seems they are begging for gifts.

My daughter claims this is the norm these days. What is your opinion?

Gentle Reader: That your daughter is right: Begging for gifts is normal these days. It is also vulgar, of course. You are also right that baby showers are supposed to be for the expectation of a baby's appearing in a household not already overrun with baby equipment.

But Miss Manners makes an exception for an informal gathering of the expectant mother's close friends who are moved to make a fuss over her a second — or fifth — time. However, the plea that a more formal gathering for the lady's entire acquaintance, complete with those detestable gift registries, would enable the guest of honor to parcel out her shopping is not charming.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. Judith Martin is the author of "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated)." © Judith Martin. Distributed by United Feature Syndicate Inc.