DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were walking down the street when a man and his friend in a truck drive by and started whistling at me, leering and catcalling. I looked at my husband and he said nothing and ignored it. And I was furious.
I am an attractive woman and have only been married about a year and a half. I have always been subject to unwanted sexual advances and catcalls. I had thought that by being married and in the presence of my husband that I would be somewhat protected, but that appears not to be the case.
Most men would take offense that other men were referring to their spouses in such a demeaning manner and at LEAST say something. I know that I take offense at being referred to in such a demeaning manner.
Should I have been angry at my husband for not sticking up for me? Was he right to ignore them so as not to start a fight? Should I feel hurt that he felt that his (maybe our, but I'm not so sure) safety was more important than my virtue?
GENTLE READER: Let us hope that your virtue was not in question. Only you can lose it, for example by chasing after truck drivers, in which case nothing your husband could do would help.
Had these people confronted you directly, you would be right to expect your husband to protect you -- although whether he chose to do so by taking on a fight where he was outnumbered two to one, or by removing you from danger, would be a matter of judgment.
But as Miss Manners keeps trying to tell the road-rage crowd, drive-by insults must be ignored, as they cannot be safely redressed. As it happens, that is also the correct way for both ladies and gentlemen to deal with catcalls and other street insults.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My toddler son is cute. Incredibly cute. The kind of cute that makes people point him out to friends in crowded stores, that makes people follow us around asking, "What movie have I seen him in?" and that makes total strangers give him their snack foods.
The problem is when parents of other children come up to me and tell me how cute he is. For me to simply say "thank you" always seems to me to imply, "I have nothing nice to say about your child in return."
But the fact is, across a crowded bus, you notice that a child is cute. But you can't notice that a child is artistic, musical, well-spoken or talented in a myriad other ways. What is the proper response to such a compliment?
GENTLE READER: "Thank you. Your child is adorable."
But wait! Yours is so much more so! Wouldn't returning the compliment be a lie, and wouldn't the other parent know you were lying?
Not at all, Miss Manners assures you. Children are basically adorable by definition, which is why society is expected to put up with so many uneducated and unproductive people. And all parents believe their own to be incredibly cute, which is why they put up with them.