DEAR MISS MANNERS: What would be a proper remark to a 30-something-year-old, well-dressed female, who was driving a very expensive new car and had just parked a grocery shopping cart about 5 inches from my new very expensive car? I pointed out the fact to her that she could have walked 10 steps and got the cart completely off the parking lot. She did not like my remark to her.
GENTLE READER: Really? She didn't care for it when you said, "Hey, lady, that's a brand new, expensive car I have there. Would it kill you to walk 10 more steps? How would you like it if I let my cart slide over into your shiny new overpriced heap?"
Yes, yes, Miss Manners knows that is not exactly what you said. But what you reported to her conveyed the same tone. Little wonder the lady did not like it.
A proper remark would have been -- "Excuse me, but would you mind moving that cart a little farther? We wouldn't want it to nick either one of our nice new cars."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a young woman married to a wonderful, compassionate young man who has decided to devote his considerable talents to the practice of law. He will be starting school in the fall, with the intent of serving poor and otherwise underrepresented citizens. We both know that we will never be rich, and we don't care.
The thing is, friends, co-workers and family members are always telling me, "Oh, soon you'll be an attorney's wife, you lucky duck!" or, even worse, "Well, won't you two be raking it in!"
They seem to be under the misunderstanding that all attorneys are wealthy, and that the spouses of attorneys sit around eating Bon-Bons. Deep down, I know that most, if not all, of these people are only teasing and do not mean any harm, but at the same time, I do not appreciate the assumptions they seem to be making. I am an intelligent, educated lady with aspirations of my own, and, on top of that, my husband is only entering the field of law to be of service to the poor.
I generally shrug off these comments, but it feels awkward. I'm not looking for a "comeback," as I don't believe any of these statements are intended to be malicious. However, I feel that simply shrugging or smiling implies that I agree with the speaker. I don't want to sound defensive or self-righteous. How should I respond?
GENTLE READER: Silly, top-of-the-head comments about people's professions need not be answered sensibly, Miss Manners agrees. But she understands that the 78th time you hear the same remark, you become desperate to put a stop to it. And the implication of going into a field simply for the money is particularly galling. No doubt these people also expect to be paid for their work, but would be insulted if told that that was their only motivation.
As long as you say it pleasantly, Miss Manners gives you leave to reply, "Well, not in the kind of law he has chosen. He is in it to help the poor, and they don't exactly pay well. But as you can imagine, I'm extremely proud of him."