Introduction Question

Dear Sensible Midwesterner,

If a husband and wife are out together at a dance club and either one runs into old friends, when is the appropriate time to introduce one another? I was taught right after the hello exchanges. Ex: hi! John Doe hi Jane doe – this is my wife / husband, Jane/ John, then carry on the conversation, so at this point if it’s just small talk or a conversation carries on, the other spouse can engage. Or does one let conversation carry on then introduce one another when he/she feels it’s more of a natural introduction?

Signed,

Introduction Question

Dear Introduction Question,

It’s great to start the New Year with the basics!

If introductions are to be made, they are to be made immediately. As you say, right after the two acquaintances say hello.

While it’s rarely improper to introduce people*, it isn’t always necessary. It’s necessary if you’re going to be standing there talking for awhile and the un-introduced party is a spouse or significant other left standing there, smiling like an idiot without a way into the conversation taking place before their very eyes, but if it’s a quick exchange of pleasantries with an acquaintance at a dance club, you may choose to skip it altogether. But an old friend and a spouse? That introduction needs to happen.

“John! So great to see you! Do you know my husband, Ken Barbie? Ken, this is John Doe, who I know from college/with whom I worked at Widgets Co./who used to date Kitty.”

That’s how it’s done. Full names, complete with context of how you know them.

Let’s try in a slightly different situation:

“Hi Sarah! So good to see you! I don’t think you know my aunt, Nancy Abodo. Nancy, this is my friend Sarah Starshine from work.”

You get the pattern, as any sensible person would, I’m sure.

Spouses and other pairings may wish to develop a sign for when they don’t remember someone’s name. When this sensible midwesterner hasn’t introduced her husband to someone within one or two back-and-forths, he knows to extend his hand and introduce himself, the Sensible Midwesterner can then act like introducing them slipped my mind and we both learn/re-learn the third party’s name.

* It’s an old-fashioned truth: once two people are formally introduced they are socially obligated to acknowledge one another. Today, this seems of little matter; back when hierarchies were the raison d’être of social life, an unwanted acquaintance could be a burden the weight of which we 21st-century folks can, thankfully and truly, not begin to imagine.

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