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

Miss Manners: Avoiding unwanted questions at the doctor’s office

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I take my 6-year-old to the doctor to treat allergies or colds, medical forms ask for my marital status. I’ve been leaving this part of the form blank ever since getting unsolicited advice on single parenting from a nurse a few months ago.

I provide a second emergency contact when the forms ask for one, and I’d be happy to give my marital status if I could see how it was relevant to my child’s treatment.

Today, I was checking in my child for a medical procedure. The nurse asked me for my marital status, and I replied, “Oh, why do you ask?” I hoped she’d either give me a medical reason or move on to the next question, but instead she said, “So I can fill in this form.”

Annoyed, I shortly answered: “Skip.” She moved on to the next question. Could you please suggest a more polite way to handle this conversation the next time it comes up?

GENTLE READER: “I am my child’s primary parent. Neither of us is currently married – nor are we looking.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is a groomsman for some longtime friends of ours. They attended our wedding a couple months ago, and we are so excited for their coming union. Then we found out that I am not invited to the rehearsal dinner – only he is.

When we were planning our wedding, I was told that if anyone in the wedding party had a spouse, they were to be included in all rehearsal-related activities. I am particularly bummed because we are traveling across the country for their wedding. Is it appropriate to express my disappointment to the couple?

GENTLE READER: Only if you want to make for an extremely awkward next encounter. The couple will either begrudgingly invite you to the rehearsal dinner, or remain steadfast that it is wedding party-only. If it is the latter, surely there are other spouses in a similar position. Miss Manners suggests you seek them out to plan your own evening’s entertainment. And then resolve to have a lot more fun.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: There is a six-year difference between my sister and me, but there is no missing the fact that we are sisters. Lately in social settings, we are often asked which one of us is older. This question has been asked by complete strangers and co-workers.

With strangers, I have no hesitation in taking a page from your book and asking, “Why do you want to know?” and then changing the subject. My quandary is in responding to co-workers and their significant others. We have another work/family gathering in a few months, and it would be helpful to have a polite, tactful response.

GENTLE READER: To be clear, if Miss Manners recommended, “Why do you want to know?” as a proper response, it was meant to be asked in a tone of mild curiosity, not shirt-gripping demand.

And she reminds you that strangers are no less entitled to a polite answer than family and friends, no matter how impertinent the question. How about answering, instead, “We are like twins. Can’t you tell?” That should confuse them into silence – and changing the subject themselves.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,