DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a father of three, with No. 4 on the way. This time, my wife and I decided to find out the sex of the baby before the birth (something we did not do with the others). I am proud to say that we are expecting a girl, and I would like to share the news with my buddies with the traditional cigar. Do I wait until the birth to pass them out? Or is it OK to pass them out now when I share our good fortune?
GENTLE READER: You have three children, and you haven't learned patience?
Yet there are other things Miss Manners hopes you never learn, such as that not all pregnancies go smoothly, and not everyone is as charmed by embryos as by babies. (Some people even find cigars offensive, but that's another matter.)
Your daughter is not ready yet for her debut. Please give her a chance to get ready to face the world, and, for heaven's sake, to put something on.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last year, after four years of relative happiness, my male partner and I ended our relationship. It was not amicable, a particularly unpleasant experience that took me the remainder of the year to accept, cope with, and gradually begin to heal from.
Several months ago, I began to very slowly and casually date another gentleman. Things are going rather well, and he and I attended a friend's barbecue over the weekend.
My friend knew about my circumstances and was pleased and excited to see that I seemed to be moving on. However, we ran into a few problems from the "friends of friends." Many of these are people I've met and do like, but time and distance being what they are, I just don't see them more than once or twice a year at such events.
One person, excited upon seeing me, ran over to hug me, introduced herself to my male companion, and then exuberantly asked, "But where is Eric?" (my former partner).
I was able to reply with a lighthearted, "I'm not sure! Did he not come with you?" To my relief, she received the message immediately.
Others, however, didn't really get the hint. One guest asked three times during the introduction and when I was chatting with several others, saying, "Wait -- did you and Eric break up?" Another remarked to my companion, "Ohhh, so YOU are the new Eric," and with a playful hip bump added, "You are definitely more handsome."
I fully understood her playful intent, but felt awkward for my companion, who could only smile shyly and thank her for the compliment. Another guest, when we were greeting each other, remarked, "You've lost some weight and you are growing out a goatee -- it looks good!" until his girlfriend came in and mercifully rescued us.
How do you politely respond to queries from friendly acquaintances about your former lovers?
GENTLE READER: As these people seem to be in a teasing mood, Miss Manners suggests you tease back. You might do this by turning to the gentleman you brought and saying, "I'm sorry to embarrass you by exposing you to this. They're really very nice people who mean well, just a little primitive socially. But I'm fond of them anyway."
(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.)