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How do you converse with someone who’s naked?

Judith Martin The Spokesman-Review

Dear Miss Manners: My family and I have recently joined a gym. My question concerns what to do in the locker room when you encounter someone you know.

If the person is naked, do you pretend not to notice them? I have found myself uncomfortable when recognizing an acquaintance either partially dressed or nude. I am very modest and prefer to use the changing rooms, but quite a few of the ladies walk around nude.

Do I wait until they speak to me first? We live in a culturally diverse area, and I didn’t know if this was common practice for other cultures and I am being puritanical.

Gentle Reader: You don’t have to travel far from your gym to find subcultures that squelch whatever modesty has survived the culture at large. Boarding schools, theatrical dressing rooms, military barracks and hospital wards, not to mention the communal dressing rooms of outlet stores, are among the places that have accustomed people to same-gender undress.

Far from attempting to dislodge your modesty, Miss Manners merely urges you to preserve it by looking the other ladies straight in the eye, just as she hopes you would if they were wearing suits, hats and gloves. You will not embarrass them, any more than if you had met them on the beach. But you should stop worrying about being “puritanical,” a silly insult if there ever was one.

Dear Miss Manners: Please comment on the increasingly common practice of carrying one’s own purchased coffee drink into a home at which one is a guest for a shower or other party.

Could you also comment on carrying such drinks into charity luncheons, etc.?

Gentle Reader: It is the liquid equivalent of chewing gum: fine in private, but not when out socially.

Dear Miss Manners: A man I recently became happily involved with, who is wonderful in so many ways, has this awful habit of telling me explicit details about women from his past and good things they made him feel.

I am not bothered by someone I’m dating mentioning their exes. It is the way he does it – with a tone of delight upon remembering sensual or physical or other romantic types of details about them.

I have told him that this bothers me. However, it seems to be an impulse he cannot or does not wish to control.

How can he not understand how hurtful and rude this behavior is? Also, how might I impress upon him, without sounding controlling or suspicious or insecure, that this kind of thing can damage trust in a relationship?

Gentle Reader: You can at least trust him to gossip about you.

Miss Manners notes that in your anxiety not to seem jealous (presuming that this represents that mix you describe as controlling, suspicious and insecure), you are overlooking what this says about his character. Someone who cannot control himself enough to stop bragging about his conquests to anyone, let alone to the lady whose heart he has most recently conquered – and who has asked him to stop – is, in a very fundamental way, decidedly not wonderful.

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