DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am at a loss about what to say to our very nosy librarian. No matter what books you are checking out, she reads the titles (often out loud and at a high volume so everyone else in the library can hear) and then comments on your selections.
Examples: My husband works in health care and checked out some books on a private and potentially embarrassing disease to help put together a brochure for his clinic. This woman read the titles and asked him (in a very loud voice) if he had the disease!
Another time, I checked out a name book. I'm working on writing a novel and needed some ideas for my characters. The librarian read the titles and shrieked, "Are you pregnant?! It's too soon for you to be having another baby!" (I was holding my infant son at the time.)
I wasn't pregnant, but can you imagine if I was? What business is it of hers how close together my children are spaced? Not to mention the fact that, generally, there is a hierarchy to announcing a pregnancy (tell the spouse, other children, grandparents, etc.), and "librarian" doesn't fall on that list.
We live in a very small town with limited library hours, so I can't just avoid going when she is working because she's always there. How do I tell this woman I don't appreciate her nosiness without being rude?
GENTLE READER: The way to get to a librarian is to imply that a profession requiring technologically sophisticated researching skills is solely populated by cranky old ladies whose only pleasure in life is to shhh people.
Oh, and a few inhibited young ladies who could find love if only they would remove their glasses.
Miss Manners suggests combining the two offensive images by responding to all comments and questions solely by giving the librarian one of those sweetly vague, nearsighted looks and a regretful smile, and putting the forefinger vertically across your lips. Repeat as often as necessary.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I invite one of my friends for lunch or dinner, she always asks, "What are you having?"
She then tells me she wants to know so she can bring something to go with the meal. I usually tell her not to bring anything but herself.
By asking me what I am serving, I am made to feel that if what I serve isn't good enough, she and her husband might cancel. Am I being too sensitive here? Sometimes I don't even know what I feel like serving.
GENTLE READER: If your friend has already accepted your invitation and is asking about the menu because she wants to contribute to the meal, it is a legitimate question, although Miss Manners believes you to be quite right in declining this.
There is nothing wrong with your replying that you haven't yet decided.
However, if she asks about the food -- or worse, the other guests -- before accepting, you might be right in thinking she is hedging. But you could reply, "Why? Is there something you can't eat?" or "Why? Is there someone you can't stand?"