DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you greet someone you know rather well when you encounter them in a shadowy situation where neither one of you should be, with people you shouldn’t be with? Just asking for a friend.
GENTLE READER: Please tell your friend that it is done with a half-smile, in which the lips move slightly but the cheeks do not. It means “I didn’t see you, and you didn’t see me.”
Miss Manners trusts that the two people are sneaking around to plan surprises for their spouses. Pleasant ones, that is.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 30-year-old woman and I keep my head shaved. I know it’s unusual, but I think it’s cute. That’s all there is to it.
Other people, though, want to talk about it … a lot. I get all kinds of questions, like, “Why do you have your hair like that?” trying to figure out if I’m sick or if I shaved it for charity. Twice, people who have battled with cancer wanted to know if I share their struggle. I don’t blame them one bit, but I still find it really awkward to say, “No, I just like my hair this way,” especially if I cannot reasonably excuse myself afterward.
With family, I get never-ending comments like, “Do you think you will ever grow your hair out again?” and “I think it was so cute when it was longer” and “If you’re cold all the time, why don’t you grow out your hair?”
I didn’t used to mind, but after years of these questions and comments, I am at the end of my rope. I worry that saying I don’t want to talk about it will seem harsh, give people the wrong idea about my health or make things awkward. What do you suggest?
GENTLE READER: Making things awkward. Or rather, allowing those who keep delivering uncalled-for remarks to realize how awkward and tiresome that is for you. Try something like, “Thanks for keeping track. I suppose I do need a trim.”
As you point out, cancer patients are not in that category. But Miss Manners disagrees that your choice trivializes their necessity. On the contrary, “No, I just do it because I think it’s chic” may free them to realize that wigs are not the only way they may look good.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A guest staying for a short time ran out of clean clothes. She asked me, with apologies, to launder some of her personal items.
What is the etiquette on such requests? Could I have offered to drop her undies at the local dry cleaner for laundering, or should I have suggested she could wash out an item or two and hang them in the bathroom overnight?
GENTLE READER: Asking your host to clean your underwear is so outrageous that Miss Manners recommends failing to acknowledge that it happened. You need only say, “Certainly – you can hang them in the bathroom, or I can tell you where there is a dry cleaner.”
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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