DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a middle-aged woman. I tend to be conservative in what I wear, but remember fondly dressing a little less conservatively in my younger, slimmer days.
I wonder whether I have gotten too conservative in my fashion tastes when I see women my own age dressed in the revealing styles that younger women have adopted. Indeed, sometimes when it is very obvious that there are no undergarments hindering many women, both middle age and younger, as they walk about on the streets, I find myself torn between shock and dismay.
I am very much for women's rights, but am conflicted when I see my "sisters" exercising their rights in such an outgoing way. I find myself wondering whether, in exercising their right to dress as they please, they have gone a little too far.
Have I gotten too conservative in my middle age?
GENTLE READER: You have gotten confused. Dressing lewdly is not an expression of women's rights.
Miss Manners commends you for dressing in good taste. But she assures you that the bad taste you observe has nothing whatsoever to do with claiming an equal right to run around with no underwear.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a gay man planning to become engaged in the near future. While I'm looking forward to getting married, I am dreading the questions from friends and family about the legality of the wedding, such as "Are you going to go to Massachusetts?" or "Is that legal in Maryland yet?"
At best, the questions throw cold water on what should otherwise be a joyful and congratulatory moment. At worst, it puts our attention on the rather painful subject of marriage inequality. I do not wish to sound angry or confrontational in my reply by saying something like, "No, did you travel to a strange state to get married?" or "Well, I'm not waiting around for Maryland to get its act together!"
We intend to have a minister preside and to be as lawfully joined as possible, but I do not feel as if this is something I should have to justify to others; nor do I feel my wedding must be some sort of political statement.
I've contemplated appropriate responses, such as, "Oh, of course not," but I worry that will only lead to further questions. What is a proper, polite and effective response to a question about my pending marriage that I do not wish to answer?
GENTLE READER: Precedent here is that most people love to talk about their wedding plans and take the slightest show of interest as license to go on and on until others are weak with boredom.
There is no reason that you cannot achieve this effect. Just follow Miss Manners' rule of answering the question you want to deal with rather than the one that was asked. It got her through school.
"Right now, we're talking about the cake," you might say. "He likes chocolate, but one of my aunts is allergic to chocolate, so I'm thinking that maybe we should have cake that she can eat, but chocolate pastries on the side for those who want them."