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Miss Manners: Young-looking pharmacist fends off age questions

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have always been told that I look young for my age, which I have chosen to accept as a compliment. I am frequently mistaken for a high school student, despite holding my doctorate.

However, since beginning work as a health care professional, many patients feel the need to bark something along the lines of, “You can’t POSSIBLY be the pharmacist! You’re much too young! How old ARE you??!”

Up to this point, I’ve been providing my age and reassurances that yes, I am the pharmacist. I give them the answers to their questions and send them on their way.

This is really starting to irritate me, as it’s directed at me multiple times a day, and it’s none of their business how old I am. Is there any other polite way to get these people to stop asking?

GENTLE READER: First, please ask yourself why you considered it a compliment to be told that you look young for your age. This means that you accept the absurd – but wildly pervasive – notion that it is shameful to grow old. By that logic, you should also be flattered to be taken for someone too young to do your job.

Please understand that Miss Manners wants you to think no such thing. It is insulting to be sized up as you have been, even if it is to credit you with false youth.

Meanwhile, however, she will answer your question. What you can say, with a pleasant smile, is: “Perhaps you would prefer to come back tomorrow. I’ll still be the pharmacist, but I’ll be older then.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My parents are first cousins. I have a friend who likes to tell “inbred” jokes about people whose parents are first cousins.

This is always in a group setting, and she imitates having buck teeth and a southern accent and a voice very similar to the Disney character named Goofy.

She is not aware that my parents are first cousins, and if she knew, she would be horribly embarrassed. Is there a way to politely put an end to these jokes? I am finding them rather tiresome.

GENTLE READER: The easiest way of refuting prejudice is open to you. “But I AM one” (in this case, “I am the product of one”) is so good a stopper that Miss Manners has heard it used by people who are not really the target of such remarks. And it sounds to her as if your friend could use a small dose of embarrassment.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I notice that sometimes when I say “thank you” to someone, usually in a service context, I hear the response “No problem” or “That’s OK.” This response suggests that the person has heard my gratitude as an apology, which, of course, it is not. I don’t know what to say in response, and usually just smile.

GENTLE READER: Although many people are driven crazy by these common substitutes for “you’re welcome,” Miss Manners notes that other languages – notably French and Spanish – use equivalents. True, it is annoying to have conventions displaced, but the idea here is to say that whatever was done for you was not seen as an intrusion, so there is no reason for you to feel insulted.

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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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