Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When saying hello and goodbye to my friends, I often give them a quick hug. If my friend is with someone else that I do not know well, I would feel awkward giving that person a hug, too.

In that case, is it better to not hug anybody, so that I don’t treat people unequally?

GENTLE READER: Etiquette does not require one to parcel out one’s affections equally, and, Miss Manners hastens to add, social systems that lack a sense of humor -- morality, for example -- actively object to doing so.

The acquaintance merits no more than a handshake, while the friend can be greeted with a handshake or hug as circumstances and inclinations permit.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Every year, after the busiest time in our fairly small professional office, the partners give me (the office manager) a pretty substantial cash gift. I feel that I should write a thank-you note at least, to let them know that I appreciate it.

However, every example of a thank-you note that I can find indicates that I should mention what I plan on using the cash for. I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to tell the people that I work with that I plan to use it for groceries, or to pay off my car loan.

GENTLE READER: Staunch promoter of thank-you notes though she is, Miss Manners uses a different word to describe a cash payment in a professional setting, as opposed to a present given socially.

It is called a salary or, in your case, a bonus. No thank-you note is generally required, but because of the small size of the office and the bonus’s not being automatic or calculated according to previously articulated rules, you may want to send a short, handwritten note.

But unless you have reason to make the point that you need this money for groceries, you should simply express your gratitude.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How should I respond when people get too curious about why I have a licensed service dog? Too often, I’ll have someone ask exactly what she is trained to do for me. Being a licensed health care professional myself, I usually simply respond, “She was trained for me.”

When they become even more persistent, I usually say, “Are you asking what medical disability I have?” What is a polite comeback rather than saying, “My medical information is federally protected by HIPAA, and you cannot ask about my medical history”?

GENTLE READER: A question about why the person wants to know will be taken as an invitation. And if you make a legal argument, you will inevitably run into a nosy lawyer who is happy to debate whether medical privacy laws apply to private individuals as well as health care providers.

If your questioner fails to stop when you reasonably say that the dog was trained for you, Miss Manners recommends an unambiguous follow-up: that neither you nor your dog cares to discuss it. This may lead to an unpleasant pause, but the rudeness will not be yours.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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