DEAR MISS MANNERS: My identical twin sister and I try very hard to pursue our own individuality, including dressing differently and having different hairstyles/colors.
However, it is hard for us to overcome our basic genetic makeup, and invariably, when we are out in public, someone will ask "Are you two twins?" Usually, this is a waitperson or salesperson, but sometimes we are actually stopped by complete strangers as we are walking through a restaurant.
We usually respond with a curt "Yes" and go on with our business, to avoid the inevitable follow up questions ("Who's older?" "Did you trick your boyfriends?" "Can your mother tell you apart?"). Yet, we both find this curiosity irrelevant, intrusive and somewhat embarrassing, as though we were a freak of nature.
It has also become quite tedious, as it happens several times during each of our outings.
I realize this ranks low on the spectrum of rude behavior, and I am resigned to having to tolerate it. It is a small price to pay for the wonderful and close relationship I share with my twin. I am only hoping Miss Manners would educate the general public in the common courtesy of not prying into the lives of complete strangers.
Failing that, perhaps you would share a snappy comeback to this tiresome query.
GENTLE READER: Boring is better than snappy in this case. Snappy, if it is not rude, will be intriguing, and lead to more such predictable questions.
You are under no obligation to answer personal questions from strangers, and Miss Manners finds your dismissive reply and refusal to engage permissible. You might also try "We are sisters" or "We're told we look alike."
For decades, she has been begging people not to say the first thing on their minds when they meet others, and yet they go on exclaiming the obvious. So once again: Please, folks, if you see someone who is particularly tall or short, who appears foreign, who has a visible injury or a name that lends itself to jokes -- keep your thoughts to yourself. It is no news to the person in question to say so, and not your business to mention.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Casual acquaintances of ours called and invited to "take" us out for drinks and dinner. We agreed, but were taken back when the bill arrived at our table and the host began dividing up the charges between both couples.
Caught off guard, neither my spouse nor I had enough cash on hand nor a major credit card. When we offered to pick up the tab the next time the four of us dined out together, there was no negotiating with them. We actually had to borrow the keys to their car and drive to the nearest ATM (3 miles). Meanwhile, they enjoyed a second round of dessert and coffee.
I would appreciate your assistance in clarifying the terms to an invitation recently bestowed upon my wife and I. Did I misinterpret the invitation?
GENTLE READER: You were taken, all right.
There is much confusion between invitations to take others out to dinner and suggestions to meet them at mutually chosen restaurants. But the offer to "take" someone out clearly marks the inviter as host.
These people, however, carried their ungraciousness to new lows. Miss Manners is only surprised that they didn't charge you rent for using their car.