DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live on a disability pension for a condition that is not readily apparent to the naked eye. I also occasionally sell works of art at a local gallery.
Since I have found that most people are reluctant to socialize with a disabled person and it seems to put a damper on things, I will usually, when I am asked what I "do," state that I am an artist. Unfortunately, it seems that very few people are willing to leave it at this and persist with further comments like "But you certainly can't pay the rent with THAT! What is it you really DO?"
Am I really obligated to explain something so personal? What is a polite way to answer this kind of thing?
GENTLE READER: Good luck in trying to outrun people who make silly, knee-jerk remarks. No matter how many subjects you put off limits, Miss Manners assures you that they will find a way.
Here is what she would reply: "I wish I'd talked to you before I became an artist. I only went in for it for the money, you know. I thought it would be an easy living. Are you telling me that it's not?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: So I know that, traditionally, the bride should be the only one at a wedding who is dressed in white.
But what if there is no bride? Would it be acceptable for a female guest to wear white to a wedding if the marriage is between two men? (Specifically, a white sundress that would never be mistaken for a wedding dress, if that makes any difference.)
GENTLE READER: All the more reason for not doing so. You don't want the guests' thinking, "Oops, there is a bride, after all."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm an African-American in my middle 60s. What is wrong with telling my associates of other races that I do not wish to be called a girl on any occasion?
I start explaining to them why that word girl is so offensive to me, as it also is to many other black ladies. Before I get the whole explanation out, they will stop me in mid-sentence to reply, "I hear other black people (women) addressing one another with 'Hey girl'."
I will tell the associate that some women have reasons why they allow that to happen. As for me, it is an insult from days of the past. During the time my mother was alive, she would be called a girl sometime by young people that greeted her at a store. This has happened to black women just about every day.
So how old should an African American woman be and how can I tell others without making them angry ? If a person does not know my name, just address me as Mrs. or Ms.
GENTLE READER: The only thing wrong with your telling your associates not to address you as "girl" is your weak defense when they argue.
The chief point is that you are offended, whether or not they have the courtesy to learn why. If that is not enough, Miss Manners recommends your asking whether they intend to offend you, and when they say not, that the solution is merely to stop addressing you that way.
Furthermore, the use of a term among intimates, or within the same group, does not constitute permission for outsiders to do it. If you family still calls you Babykins, would that allow your colleagues to do so?