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No Bellies - No Matter What

By Judith Martin United Features Sy

Dear Miss Manners: In our office environment, which is on a military installation, there is no dress code except for those who are serving in the armed forces. But it has always been understood that most people would dress in a professional manner, especially when dealing with the public.

We have a lady who is expecting a baby and beginning to show. This lady dresses to be cool since the temperatures are so high lately. The problem is that she wears maternity shorts and a short T-shirt that exposes her belly.

Some people feel that she isn’t appropriately dressed and they are repulsed by having to look at her unborn baby being so exposed. Isn’t that why there are specific shops available for women who are pregnant?

This is a very delicate matter. It’s really hard to tell this woman that she is repulsive and should cover her body! How does one approach a subject tactfully and professionally without making the situation worse?

At this time, she has a few more months to go until full term. I’m afraid of what she may wear in the near future. I think her attitude is that if you don’t like it, don’t look!

Gentle Reader: Does the summer military uniform in your office feature bare midriffs?

Miss Manners does not otherwise know how to account for your unseemly insistence that the issue is that people consider the lady’s exposed belly repulsive because she is pregnant. Surely you don’t want to get into an argument about the beauty of expectant motherhood, among other reasons, because you are going to lose.

By comparison, it will be a simple matter to cite regulations about professional dress. These make some concessions to comfort but - last time Miss Manners checked the military uniform - do not allow bellies to hang out in the heat, regardless of whether they are filled with babies or beer.

Dear Miss Manners: On my last visit to a college friend who lives about four hours drive away, we planned that he would visit me this summer when our favorite baseball team would be playing. I immediately ordered tickets, and we confirmed our plans.

About a week before the visit, he told me to get rid of the tickets because he had obtained much better ones through a business connection. I was guardedly pleased and fortunately was able to sell the tickets. The night before he planned to drive down, he called again to arrange logistics.

When I came home from work Friday, he was supposed to be there, but had left a message on my answering machine that he wasn’t feeling very well (though he sounded fine) and didn’t feel up to the drive. He was sorry he had to cancel our weekend plans, but I should call him and tell him how much money he owed me for the baseball tickets.

Of course I missed the baseball game, but that is not why I feel disappointed and ill-used. Do I have reason to feel this way? How can I explain that monetary reimbursement is not going to mollify me after he reneged on our longstanding plans?

Gentle Reader: You really can’t, Miss Manners is afraid. People do get sick - even people who sound fine over the telephone - and getting sick is a valid excuse for canceling an engagement.

What is more, decency requires the person whose plans were spoiled by this to do more than restrain his chagrin. He must actually express sympathy and make subsequent inquiries to see how the sick person is getting along.

However, you did miss two opportunities, along with the game. One was to ask your friend to arrange for you to use those tickets on the grounds that as sorry as you were for him, it would be a shame to let them go to waste. The other was to place your follow-up call the next afternoon, when your poor friend should have been suffering at home in bed.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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