DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 45-year-old mother of three, and about five years ago, I decided to start coloring my hair to cover up the gray. My color of choice is blonde.
The three hours I spend at the hairdresser every six weeks is the only luxury I have in my life. When I come out, I feel relaxed, young and beautiful. I get plenty of compliments. However, there are people who will point out to me that "that's not your real color." Usually, I laugh and say it's part of my midlife crisis, but I don't think I need to justify why I chose to go blonde, nor should these people be able to go away thinking that they were right in insulting a person.
Do you have any suggestions for polite, yet assertive responses that would gently yet firmly put these people in their place? I would never dream of commenting on a person's hair or clothing unless it was a compliment.
GENTLE READER: Would it be of any comfort to know that these busybodies are every bit as active advising those of us who do not color our hair to do so?
No, and it shouldn't be. Having other people pick over one's hair is revolting.
Miss Manners does not advise you to taunt a person who has just been proven to be rude. Your answer should be a soft, "Why, that's very kind of you to point that out."
The phrasing prompts the other person to say an automatic "thank you" that is choked off with the realization that gratitude is neither meant nor deserved.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a school administrator in the small community in which I live. The job is wonderful because it affords me the opportunity to work in a community that I know well and love.
However, it carries with it a serious loss of personal space. Over the past few years, more and more parents have begun approaching me in the grocery store, at my daughter's soccer games, while walking the dog, or when out for a quiet dinner with my husband, with questions about the district, their children's schools, teachers, grades, coaches -- you name it.
Many of their questions involve privileged information or have nothing to do with the work that I do. I was almost physically accosted one Sunday morning, in my sweats at the deli counter, by an irate parent who was unhappy about something that had occurred at her child's basketball game!
How do I reply to these comments and questions?
GENTLE READER: The best answer is "Hmmmm." It seems thoughtful and gives away nothing.
After a pause, you say to complainers, "Please write this up in some detail, so I can study it at a more appropriate time," and to questioners, "Please call and make an appointment to see me in my office."
Miss Manners trusts that as a school administrator, you know where she is going with this. No one wants to do extra homework or report to the office. But even if they do, you will have finished your walk and your dinner.