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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Nosy questions just keep on coming

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair. When we became engaged, friends, family, colleagues and even acquaintances thought absolutely nothing of asking me whether he was sexually capable and able to father children.

Not wanting any bit of that conversation, I would normally reply with “How would I possibly know?” and then change the subject immediately.

I thought that these sort of inquiries would end when we were married and I became pregnant, but now the same people are asking me how my child was conceived, and if artificial means were required.

My husband is good mannered and laughs off these sort of offensive questions, but I’m afraid that I’m much more irritated. I need a proper line of defense from Miss Manners before I really blow my top.

GENTLE READER: No, no, Miss Manners would have you take an opposite tone – that of a patient parent having a difficult conversation with a curious young child:

“Well, it’s like this: When two people love each other and want to be close …” Then you can trail off with, “Wait – I don’t know you well enough to be having this conversation. Surely there must be someone in your family who will explain to you how babies are made.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a physician’s office. The physician was ill several years ago and the patients could not help but notice. The physician does not discuss this illness with people.

When patients ask me directly, “How is Dr. So-and-So? Did he have illness XYZ?” I am at a loss as how to respond. I usually say, “Oh, he’s fine,” or “I’m not sure about XYZ,” and try to divert the conversation back to why they are here.

I feel uncomfortable lying, as I do know the answers to these questions. If I say something like, “You will have to ask Dr. So-and-So,” or “I’m not at liberty to discuss this with you,” it may come across as rude or like the illness is more dire than it may be. Do you have any suggestions?

GENTLE READER: “You’ll be happy to hear that all medical information in this office is kept confidential. I’ll tell him you were kind enough to be concerned, but you needn’t worry.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am uncertain how to handle the matter of a wedding registry. I don’t like the idea of a registry, but friends and family have told me that they consider not having one to be a thinly veiled cash grab, which seems even more distasteful. What would be the best way to avoid causing offense?

GENTLE READER: Really? Your relatives and friends are unable to imagine that you are not trying to extract something from them, so that if you don’t demand goods, you must be hitting them up for cash?

And that it is more unseemly not to beg than to hand over your shopping list?

Miss Manners is aware that there are indeed people who think that way, but she urges you not to succumb to them. They will just come up with other cynical judgments. Not liking the idea of a registry is an excellent reason for not having one.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,