DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please advise my daughter on how to respond to adults who ask her nosy and/or personal questions, such as what her dress size is, what she made on the SAT, and what colleges she is applying to.
These individuals have no interest other than to compare my daughter to their children. They would never pose such questions to another adult. They only ask my daughter such things when I am not around. My daughter doesn't want to say, "That's personal." Nor does she want to lie.
I instructed her to say that she did well and, if pressed, to say that she does not remember her scores (they were excellent). Or, to tell them that her mom said that she could not reveal her scores. What does a young lady say to a nosy adult?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners believes that young ladies should appear modest and differential to adults. It sets them a good example. You might therefore suggest that she look at the floor for a minute and then fix her interlocutors with a steady eye as she says, "I'm a little shy. You go first. What's your dress size? What was your grade point average?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I quit my job a few years ago my mother gave me some good advice: "Make sure you fill up your time with things YOU want to do, otherwise people will fill up your time for you." I planned a nice schedule that includes all the things I love: keeping my home neat, volunteering at my children's school, studying martial arts, heading the children's organization at my church.
Even with all these activities, I still find myself with at least 3 or 4 free hours a day. My friends, neighbors, and family are aware that I have this free time. They all have opinions on how I should use this free time, and are constantly calling to ask me to take someone dinner, serve on this or that committee, teach a lesson in church, baby-sit their children, etc.
I don't want to do these things! I have chosen some wonderful activities for myself, including several that serve the community, and I don't want to take on any more.
Miss Manners, how do I politely tell them "no"? The usual phrase, "I'm afraid I'm not available," is obviously not true -- all these people know that I have lots of free time.
GENTLE READER: If having free time made a lady available to anyone who asked for a favor, there would be no respectable ladies left. Miss Manners wonders that there are (aren't there?), considering how often even wise mothers, such as yours, neglect to teach the ability to say "no" politely.
"I'm afraid I'm not available" is true, and you should be saying it with conviction. Stating what you are doing then is unnecessary and unwise, as it opens you to debate. Should anyone be so rude as to inquire, you may truthfully say, "I'm terribly busy then," without specifying that you will be busy relaxing.