DEAR MISS MANNERS: I sometimes stay at hotels where the bathroom is down the hall. May I scurry to the bathroom modestly draped in my wrapper? Or do I need to dress before leaving my room? Is the rule the same on trains?
GENTLE READER: The rule does allow you to scurry to the bathroom without having to dress to go there, undress to bathe, and dress again for the return trip. Not, as in your nightmares, naked, but, as you say, modestly wrapped.
The problem is that this rule is directed at other travelers: They are supposed to consider you invisible until you are ready to present yourself for the day. And people nowadays tend to be blunt, literal-minded and outspoken. Miss Manners therefore recommends keeping the head down and a towel handy to throw over it should anyone along the way make the mistake of addressing you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I find myself at the mercy of family and friends who, upon finding out that my longtime boyfriend and I are expecting, immediately ask, "When are you getting married?"
I've discussed with them that it's not high on our priority list with a baby on the way and a new house to get settled into, though we'll likely go to a justice of the peace and make it official.
This is not enough, apparently. One wants there to be a ceremony, the other wants her own bouquet, another wants to go dress shopping, and on and on. I appreciate that they want to celebrate with us, and I'm open to doing something in the future for our families and close friends.
At this point, I have enough on my plate and don't need to incur any extra expenses. How do I politely, lovingly keep well-wishers from running away with my marriage, something I consider to belong to my future husband and me?
GENTLE READER: The most compelling reason these people can think of to persuade you to get married before your baby is born is that it would be fun to shop for the dress?
My, my, how things have changed.
However, Miss Manners trusts that you recognize that they are not so much trying to push you into marriage as they are hoping to participate in what they assume you have planned. And a wedding that consists solely of getting married, without hoopla and debt, has become unthinkable.
But whether the motive is to manage your life or merely to enhance their own, you should not enter into a discussion. It creates the illusion that the outcome will be decided by the person who argues better.
Instead, you can use the gentle tone of voice in which the obvious is uttered in order to say, "One thing at a time; one thing at a time." Or, to anyone who argues that you must marry for the sake of the baby, "We'll get to that in the proper order."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We believe a close relative is gay and will shortly be sharing this with his family. What should we say? We will certainly support and love him no matter what gender he prefers, but how do we react? "Oh, OK" seems lacking, somehow.
GENTLE READER: You have told Miss Manners that you will continue to love and support this relative. Why can't you tell him that?
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)