DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a neighbor, a single man, who invites me, a single woman, to his house to share his hot tub. The hot tub is secluded and cannot be seen from the street. In the beginning, he wore a bathing suit, but now he wears nothing. Except for neighborly chit-chat, there is no other relationship between us. I am very uncomfortable with his nudity and don't want to sit with him in that state.
How can I let him know this makes me uncomfortable? I hate to keep refusing his invitations because I want to stay on friendly terms with my neighbors; but telling him his nudity makes me uncomfortable seems embarrassing to him and to me.
GENTLE READER: It makes you uncomfortable to sit in a tub with a naked man you hardly know?
How do you think your situation makes Miss Manners feel? Whatever happened to questions from young ladies worried about the impropriety of having tea with gentlemen in their bachelor quarters?
Ah, well. You needn't tell Miss Manners that times have changed. She has noticed.
But she thought that this included ladies no longer being too bashful to speak up. However, she agrees that the cliche of "not feeling comfortable" would not do. It invites a condescending conversation about your inhibitions.
Rather, Miss Manners recommends your saying, "Will you be wearing a bathing suit?" and if the reply is no, adding, "Well, then, thank you, but no." The gentleman is then left free to decide whether he prefers your company or his own nudity.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend has a son who is a child prodigy, 8 years old and brilliant. On a regular basis, my friend corrects his English. This is not episodic but occurs very often between father and son. Consequently, the boy has a vocabulary that exceeds that of most adults.
During a recent visit with a family friend, he corrected her English. She reported back to his father how rude it is for children to correct adults regardless of if they are right or not.
But he was not rude when he told the lady that she used an incorrect word. He simply stated a fact. The boy's father corrects him often, and so he corrected an adult in charge.
What is the rule? If a child is correct, the adult is wrong, who is right? Is it impolite for an 8-year-old child to correct the English of an adult?
GENTLE READER: Yes. Your friend is doing a dreadful job of teaching this poor boy how to communicate with others.
Right or wrong is not the point; the point is that it is embarrassing to be corrected in front of other people. If the boy himself is so accustomed to having his father correct him in public, just wait until he is a bit older and wants to impress someone from that public.
This is not to say that Miss Manners agrees with your notion that age is irrelevant to manners. Parents do have to teach and correct their children, and there are times when this cannot be concealed from onlookers. But whatever they can do to maintain the dignity of their children will serve as an example of how the children should treat others.