DEAR MISS MANNERS: Now that half of medical school classes consist of the kinder gender, I think it would be nice for Miss Manners to go over the issue of how to address the female physician, socially and professionally.
My pet peeve is to be addressed as Mrs. Curall, especially since I never changed my name, EVER, even when I was married, which I am not, thankfully, now.
There seems to be a segment of Americans who are quite uncomfortable with addressing any female with any other title than Mrs. I encounter this most often at churches. Being quite religious, I hate to give up churchgoing because of this.
It seems as if a lot of these folks would choke on the words Dr. Curall, and I fear that if I insisted on my ONLY title, that my medical skills would be needed in that setting. But I seethe every time I hear myself called Mrs. Curall, which is technically incorrect anyway. My mother is Mrs. Curall.
Being a hyphenated American, I feel that this is a way for a nonhyphenated American, the usual offender, to put one down. How do you think I should handle this?
I appreciate Miss Manners helping the medical profession out this way. I am sure one of us will be of great service to Miss Manners in the future. But not too soon, I hope, for Miss Manners' sake.
GENTLE READER: She thanks you for the kind offer and thought, and assures you that it would not be necessary in this case for you to be introduced to her socially as a doctor. If she managed to stay on her feet, she would not dream of pumping you for medical information at a party; and if she were sinking into a state of emergency, she would hope that a doctor would volunteer herself, rather than watch this coldly from the distance as revenge against not receiving her proper due.
The rest of your letter sounds less like what you call the kinder gender than a subdivision we might call the prickly gender. It is true that a medical doctor uses her title socially, although Mrs. is also a respectable title, and some choose to use that socially while being Dr. professionally.
But it is even truer that few people use titles at all in addressing one another, and even those who do have little regard for the nicety of getting it right. One may say gently, once or even twice, "actually Curall is my maiden name, not my former husband's, and I'm a doctor," but it is as uncharitable to assume an intentional insult -- and an ethnic or racial insult, no less -- as it is to express public thanks at having rid oneself of one's husband.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When entertaining people in one's home, for dinner and an evening visit, is it appropriate for the host or hostess to bring the visit to an end when he or she feels that a reasonable time has been spent and the conversation is still viable?
Is the intent of having pleasant memories and good conversation to be continued at a later date sufficient, or should the guests be allowed to determine when it is time to leave? Should the guests be offended if the visit was concluded before they decided it was time to leave?
GENTLE READER: The answer is no, it is not appropriate to dismiss a guest in one's home. The real question is how the host can get away with doing it before bursting into tears of exhaustion.
Miss Manners has heard all the standard ploys, from cutting off the drinks to changing into pajamas, but prefers the simple but gracious alternative. That is for the host to jump to his feet and say, "It's been wonderful having you here," for all the world as if he had heard the guest say, "I'm afraid I'd better be going now."