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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Questions About Sex Can Be Met With Bewildered Surprise

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 17-year-old daughter has a serious boyfriend. Recently I have had three separate individuals ask me if she is having sex, since she is in a serious relationship.

I am appalled! Since when has it become acceptable to ask about anyone's -- especially a teenager's -- personal life?

I try to deflect this by saying that her private life is private -- but these same individuals then try and instruct me that I should have a more open dialogue with her about sex.

Miss Manners, my daughter and I have a lovely and communicative relationship, but I have no desire to share this information with nosy outsiders. How can I reply to these outlandish questions in a way that does not hint at any private details while putting an end to this inappropriate line of questioning?

GENTLE READER: These people can hardly wait to lecture you on how naive and old-fashioned you are to object to such questions. And if you try to argue otherwise, this vulgar haranguing will only get worse.

So Miss Manners advises you to startle them by going with the implied accusation of being prudish. This is counterintuitive, she knows, but it works.

Thus you would take on an expression of shock and exclaim, "Are you insulting my daughter?"

This will force them to claim that all young people are sexually active -- and that gives you the chance to say, "Are they really? And they don't even mind if their parents repeat their confidences to anyone who happens to be curious?"

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Family & Parenting | Sex & Gender