February 9, 2011 in Features

Don’t comment on stomach size, pregnant or not

Judith Martin, United Feature Syndicate
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A client came in for tax season. We only see each other once a year. Anyway, in she came for her appointment; I came from around the corner in the office, saw her sitting/waiting, and greeted her with, “Oh! When are you due?” She looks about five to six months pregnant, but ISN’T!!!

We proceeded to discuss drinking enough water, medications, doctor visits, blood tests, etc. But the fact of the matter is she isn’t pregnant.

How do I apologize for assuming? Should I apologize?

GENTLE READER: Abjectly, but it is not going to help much.

Presuming to recognize the contents of a lady’s womb is about as nosy and presumptive as one can get. Even if she were pregnant – even if she appeared to have passed her due date – it was her news to volunteer, not yours to guess.

Miss Manners recommends that you augment that apology by attempting to remove the notion that your comment was inspired by her figure. “I don’t know what I was thinking – why I even had babies in mind,” you should say. Because what did you have in mind? Delighting her with testimony that the first thing that leapt out at you when you saw her after a year was the size of her stomach?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The last couple of years, we have been to two or three weddings where there was no receiving line. When I approached each bridal couple, I was made to feel I was intruding. I had the feeling that they were to be looked at, admired, but not to be touched, hugged or congratulated. They did not go around to the tables. They were so cold and so into themselves!

We give generously to these occasions, not only the gift, but our time, our clothes, etc., making sure to attend the wedding ceremony as well as the reception. Please advise future brides, if you agree, that although their day is important to them, we have made a very special attempt to honor them and would like at least a hello in exchange. I don’t know how they know who was even at their wedding (except for the gift).

GENTLE READER: Or whether they care. Except, as you point out, for the expected gifts.

Apparently your friends are among those who think of wedding guests as comprising a paid audience, who are not even entitled to backstage passes so that they can express their admiration personally to the stars.

Miss Manners has heard other explanations, but these are not much better. It takes too much time? Well, since it is necessary to greet every single guest, a receiving line is the most efficient way to do it. They promise to make the rounds and greet them at dinner? But they will be detained by some to the neglect of others.

What’s that? They say that a receiving line is “too formal”? In that case, how do they characterize that dress with the 5-foot train, and the eight bridesmaids in attendance and the five-course dinner?

Visit Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.


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