DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family has a long and active history of skin cancer. Like them, I am very pale and do not tan, but burn very easily. I cannot be out in the sun for more than an hour without a protective outfit.
Whenever the subject arises -- which it feels like it does on a frequent basis, given how much people love tanning -- I am met with remarks like, “Well, we’re all going to die someday” or “Oh, but don’t you want to try tanning a little just to see what happens?”
What will happen is a second-degree burn and another skin-check with my dermatologist.
I am left flabbergasted by these flippant comments. I am in my late 20s. I cannot believe anyone would think my getting cancer and dying young is even remotely all right. No one would think of saying such things about any other type of cancer. Perhaps death by skin cancer is OK, as long as one has a nice tan while they’re laid out.
Would you please suggest some comebacks I can keep in mind for when these comments inevitably come up again?
GENTLE READER: If “we’re all going to die someday” was meant as humor, Miss Manners is not amused.
She will gladly remind everyone that pushing people to do something they have said they do not want to do is rude, no matter their reasons. But since we all hope to be around for a long time, she will add that the price of civilization is understanding others’ comments as they were intended, not compounding them for the hundred other times someone else said the same foolish thing.
Miss Manners hopes that people will stop being inconsiderate about your condition. But even if that does not happen, she hopes you will be able to shrug them off with a polite “No, thank you,” instead of an angry retort, well into old age.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: After many years of heavy drinking, my husband has rather recently given up alcohol altogether. I am hosting a birthday dinner for him at a restaurant. Several guests are not aware that he no longer drinks, and given his past habits, it is likely that some will bring an expensive bottle of something as a birthday gift.
I want to let guests know ahead of time that he is not drinking, because I want to avoid a situation where my husband explains this at the party, then proceeds to open fancy bags of alcohol from our well-meaning friends.
However, I don’t want to imply that we are expecting any gifts, nor do I want guests to think they’re not welcome to drink at the dinner (other people’s drinking does not bother my husband, and we want our guests to have a good time). Is there any polite way to let our friends know the situation?
GENTLE READER: Surely the donors do not expect your husband to consume these presents on the spot, and he could merely thank them while saving the bottles to serve future guests.
Or you could mention your husband’s new resolution before the event. Miss Manners is confident that friends who are told, “Roger has felt so much better since he stopped drinking!” will draw their own conclusions about appropriate gifts.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)