DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a professional artist. I show my work frequently and sell many pieces. However, like many independent artists, I don't make as much money as others in regular, full-time employment. I am very lucky to have a supportive spouse helping to cover the household expenses.
When I tell people I am a full-time artist, they often ask if I make enough money to support myself. I usually answer truthfully, saying no, or not yet, and adding that my spouse helps support me.
However, I fear that answering this way leads people to look upon me as a dilettante or a housewife with a hobby, which I am not -- I am a serious professional building a career. I am aware that how much money I earn is nobody's business and I am not obliged to answer these questions at all. I would much appreciate any suggestions for deflecting them -- politely, of course.
GENTLE READER: "Yes, it's a sure road to easy riches. You should try it."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My young teenage daughter is pregnant. She is feeling very ashamed. I wanted to have a baby shower for her, hoping to lift her spirits a little. She said that would be nice, however, she doesn't want to be frowned upon for the mistake she made and the responsibility she is now trying to take care of. A lot of her so-called friends have abandoned her, and it appears that I am one of her only "friends." So the invitation list would include family and my friends.
Is it bad manners or etiquette to have a baby shower for a teenager, and is it "OK" for the mother (soon to be grandmother) to give this shower? I don't want her in 10 years to look back and say I really should have had a baby shower.
GENTLE READER: If you daughter is brooding about not having a baby shower when she is the mother of a 10-year-old, both of them will be in emotional trouble. But that is not to say that she doesn't need as much warm emotional support you and the family can give her now.
Showers are never properly given by relatives, but that is not why Miss Manners begs you not to call it that. Gathering your friends would only call poignant attention to the absence of your daughter's own friends. Also, can you be sure that they will be able to restrain themselves from offering her retroactive advice?
What would be charming, instead, would be to gather the closest family members, the ones who are unequivocally standing by her, or at least willing to do so now that they do not have a choice, to give her a layette for the baby as a welcome into the family.
And yes, of course Miss Manners realizes that it sounds like a shower. The difference is that it emphasizes the support she has rather than the support that is missing.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What time is considered polite for adult children to be calling parents for casual conversation?
GENTLE READER: After dinner and before bedtime.