September 26, 2012 in Features

Conversation ender can stop prying questions

Judith Martin Universal Uclick
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a beautiful baby boy by donor insemination. I am not married, and it was by choice.

Because a new baby is such a conversation starter (grocery store, library, day care, work), often-asked questions are, “Does his dad have such blue eyes?” “Is your husband tall?” and the like. Since many of the people who ask are not simply strangers – like the day-care mom I am not friends with but will see regularly – how do I answer this without telling my whole story or curtly correcting them?

I’m having a hard time finding a middle ground. I want to be friendly, and I don’t want to lie. I have no issue telling people there is no dad – but I don’t want to stand there having a conversation with the inevitable questions (happens quite a bit) when I have to get on with my day!

GENTLE READER: As you say, these questions are conversation starters, not the Civil Service exam. Furthermore, these people are not burning with curiosity to know where your baby got his blue eyes. Any answer will do.

But not the one that actually addresses the question, because that would stimulate their curiosity, and you would be standing there forever, being peppered with nosy questions.

You want a conversation ender, and Miss Manners can think of several: “There are blue eyes in my family”; “Don’t most babies have blue eyes for the first few months?”; “People say he looks like me.”

And for the other question, something like, “At his one-month checkup, he was in the 78th percentile for height.” When new parents start talking about percentiles, everyone else flees.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.


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