DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a 60-year-old person, I am quite aware that smoking is bad, one shouldn't over-salt one's food, physical exercise is physically beneficial, and seat belts save lives.
I like where I live, having been here 21 years. Perhaps God wants me to marry again, but I don't even want to date. My sobriety date is March, 2001, and I see a shrink for depression. Does that make me fair game for unwanted advice?
Could you advise me as to a snappy, barely civil, and advice-ending rejoinder to those who persist in giving me unwanted guidance as to how I should live my life? The perps are largely close family members and close friends.
By the way, I recently quit smoking because I wanted to, and now wear my seat-belt to avoid another citation. Of course, the advice-givers are each taking credit for my meager improvements.
GENTLE READER: If you cut down on salt and went for a bike ride, would they shut up?
No, wait. Miss Manners is not joining the nagging chorus. She just wants to establish that we are talking about your children or siblings, who are trying to get you to follow doctors' orders, or freelance busybodies volunteering to direct your life.
The latter can be told, "Really? Smoking is bad and exercise is good? And here I thought it was the other way around." (You really must make this civil by using a tone of gentle, humorous admonishment.)
But that line is not going to work on your intimates. With them, you must say more humbly, "You see, I do change eventually. But I'm afraid constant reminders just put me off, and make me more stubborn. I appreciate your concern, but patience works better than nagging."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Before my husband and I began dating, he was relatively close friends with his brother's girlfriend, and she has continued this even after we got married.
For Christmas she bought him a pair of boxers as a joke. It wouldn't be so bad, but every chance she gets she asks me if he's wearing them.
I want to know your opinion of this. I don't really know what to think. I know that the age we live in is far less inclined to be polite (or decent for that matter).
GENTLE READER: Not to mention that some people have a strange idea of what constitutes a joke. Miss Manners needn't tell you that the inquiry is being made in hopes of obtaining another such joke.
Since this one would be based on your embarrassment or jealousy, you may want to head it off by saying gently, "I'm so sorry -- I realize that you are eager to know, because you keep asking me. But I'm afraid I don't discuss my husband's underwear with outsiders."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is proper protocol for evening attire in the winter months for women?
GENTLE READER: Velvet, heavy silks, brocade -- pretty much anything that doesn't flutter in the wind. And while the length of the dress will depend on the occasion, Miss Manners recommends something that can, if necessary, conceal a pair of galoshes.