DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was invited to a friend's home for lunch with a group of other women. While we were all seated and enjoying the lovely lunch provided by our hostess, one of the women sitting by me began interrogating me about my health. She asked me very intrusive questions in a rude, loud, belligerent voice that could be heard throughout the house.
The other women at the table were all watching us and could hear the entire conversation. I am a very private person who doesn't like to make my health concerns public knowledge, and I am unhappy about having my privacy violated.
I have since thought that I should have stopped her by saying, "Is there some reason that you feel the need to know?" Or "If you would like to discuss my health, would you mind doing so in private?"
But I was caught off-guard and couldn't think of those kinds of responses. What would you suggest for such a situation?
GENTLE READER: The trouble with the popular "why-do-you-need-to know?" response is that it prompts a reply from the defensive busybody, who will be sure to claim that she was only asking out of concern for you. This is a conversation you do not want to have.
Miss Manners' answer to those nosy questions would be "I'm fine, thank you; how are you?" in the tone of voice that dismisses the inquiry as a mere convention.
You will probably have to keep repeating this, as it provokes the "But how are you, REALLY?" follow-up. That can finally be cut off with a firm "I appreciate your concern, but as I keep telling you, I am fine. Now how are you?"