DEAR MISS MANNERS: It is time to put a long-standing battle to rest. Very often, however incorrect it may be, when attending a potluck or an informal dinner with friends, the situation arises where one cuts and serves themselves a piece of cake or brownie. My wife and friends say that when doing this, particularly if the first row of cake is gone, you take from the edge and go toward the middle.
I prefer to take a middle piece.
For that matter, what is wrong with cutting a piece of brownie out of the middle of the pan instead of starting at the edge? As is usually the case, I expect to be wrong, but would like to know the reasoning why middle-piece-loving individuals must continue to be oppressed, while edge and corner lovers get all the etiquette.
GENTLE READER: Much as she hates to contribute to war in the middle-piece, Miss Manners cannot hope to relieve all of those who are oppressed. She got into enough trouble when she uncharacteristically appeased a snacker who wanted only the inside of the cheese and failed to observe the courtesy of cutting it so as to maintain its wedge shape.
What you suggest is wrong because it looks piggy and makes a mess. However, if you restrain yourself, you might be rewarded. Let two people get to the brownie pan ahead of you, and there will be a middle piece available for the taking. As for cake, most piggy people go for the icing and leave hunks of unadorned insides, which you can appropriate without penalty.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Why do people insist on knowing the sexual orientation of friends, co-workers and acquaintances? I have always thought it rude in the extreme to ask someone "Are you gay?" or "Are they gay?"
To me, that is just like saying "Do you have sex?" This is no one's business but the parties involved, and possibly immediate family. It does not concern friends, co-workers and acquaintances.
For the record, I'm a happily married woman with a great husband and two kids. But for some reason, people seem to think that I spend my time peeking in bedroom windows, because I am asked this question constantly about people I know. When I am asked "Are they gay?" I reply with a snappy, and somewhat rude, "I wouldn't know. I'm not sleeping with him/her, so I didn't think it was any of my business." Miss Manners, is there a kinder way to convey that message? Or should I just ignore the question completely?
GENTLE READER: You have two distinct questions here: Why people want to know about other people's sex lives, and whether it is any of their business.
The first is a psychological question, to which Miss Manners can only reply that everyone does, probably because it is juicier than listening to people complain about their jobs. The second is an etiquette question, to which the answer is that it is not their business.
The fact that people are naturally curious is unrelated to whether that curiosity can be legitimately satisfied. Nor should it inhibit you from insinuating that such curiosity is unseemly. (Notice that Miss Manners has no qualms about condemning a perfectly natural feeling as unseemly. Etiquette thoughtfully provides veils to throw over that which should not be seen.)
The gist of your reply is fine. Only the part about not sleeping with them is a little snippy. An airy, "I have no idea" would do.