DEAR MISS MANNERS: I found myself pregnant about five months ago and since then have had question after question about my relationship. My child's father and I are not "officially" dating or married, but we have been together for about four years.
I have had friends and total strangers come up and ask me, "Are you guys going to get married?" and "What does he think about the baby?" In addition, I have had friends of a friend tell me I am damaged goods when I have never met this person.
I feel hurt and disrespected. How do I tell my friends to be more discreet and ward off the annoying questions?
GENTLE READER: Curiosity is no excuse for such intrusiveness, which is why Miss Manners is not inquiring how it is possible to find oneself pregnant by someone whom one has not dated. Or who the official is in charge of deciding whether or not people are dating.
As these questions should not be asked, they should also not be answered. You must practice looking astonished and affronted while saying, "I beg your pardon!" This is a useful phrase that means the opposite of what the words say, and is the proper reaction to nosy questions from strangers and blatant insults from anyone.
Friends who blurt out the wrong thing may be offered a way to retreat. If the reminder, "I'm sure you meant to congratulate me" or "I know you must be happy for me" does not send them scurrying backward, you go back to "I beg your pardon." Only then you pronounce it more in sadness than anger, which is why Miss Manners has omitted the exclamation mark.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Notoriously stingy acquaintances (the type who do not pay their share of restaurant or bar tabs, reciprocate dinner parties with potluck events, and once even brought their own bottle of expensive Scotch to a large party and asked us keep it away from the other guests) invited my partner and me, along with another couple, to their house for brunch.
The day before, the hosts called to suggest we go out for brunch instead, because their house was too messy to entertain. We laughed it off as typical, but after brunch, to everyone's surprise, they actually offered to pick up the tab since they had originally invited us to brunch at their home.
My partner and another guest insisted we split the bill three ways. Would it have been acceptable to allow the hosts to pay?
GENTLE READER: Yes, but not because they owe you; rather, they should be allowed to pick up the check because they invited you.
Miss Manners understands that no one loves a deadbeat, although you seem to have tolerated these people for quite a while. But it is also wrong to usurp the declared privilege of one's host. This time they behaved correctly and your companions' offer, however generously meant, sabotaged their attempt to fulfill their hostly duty. Let us hope this does not encourage them to return to their former ways.