DEAR MISS MANNERS: A long-time friend of mine recently told me that she's having IVF. I wish I could give her a big hug and tell her that it will work and she and her husband will have lots of babies. Unfortunately, IVF fails more than it succeeds.
What should I say to her? I want her to know I'm thinking of her, that I hope it works, but that I'll love all her kids, regardless of how they arrive.
She also feels that having IVF is a selfish act, and I'd like to tell her she deserves kids and shouldn't feel guilty about pursuing them (and yet at the same time not imply that it would be a tragedy if she didn't have children).
GENTLE READER: You have the right sentiments, so Miss Manners will restrict herself to pointing out what you should not say under these circumstances.
Do not ask your friend, at any time afterwards, if it succeeded.
This will not be easy. And you can argue that she already confided in you, so it isn't as if you were prying. Naturally, you just want to know the outcome and are ready to sympathize with her if it didn't work.
All the same, you must wait for her to speak. If and when she becomes pregnant, the happy news is hers to announce when she decides to do so. If she does not, she may look to you for sympathy, but she could also not feel like talking about it. Her choice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have a lovely boat. While I was away on vacation, he took a female friend of ours out on the boat to teach her how to run it and then meet up with other friends. This friend has a significant other, but he was not present on that day either.
Although I know that nothing would have happened, I have a problem with it. I just think it was quite inappropriate. He doesn't understand why I would think that, and I can't get him to see my side.
GENTLE READER: What exactly is your side? That you can go off on vacation by yourself and then chastise your husband for having what you acknowledge to be innocent fun while you were away?
Society once believed that any unsupervised lady and gentleman would be bound to be up to no good. In that case, you would have been under high suspicion for going off on vacation -- or even on a business trip -- without your husband.
Society has now found more blatant ways to be scandalized. Miss Manners suggests that you accord your husband the same trust that he accorded you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: If you had your own personal letterhead (i.e. not company stationery, but stuff you had made up for your own home/personal use), is there any significance in crossing out your last name when composing a letter?
GENTLE READER: It is done in order to acknowledge that one is on a first name basis with the person addressed.
Oddly, personal paper is often marked with a title, whereas business paper is not -- and you can also draw a diagonal line across it all. Just as well for Miss Manners, who has nothing left anyway when she crosses out her surname and title.