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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 6/20

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our daughter proudly enlisted in the military three years ago, at age 19. She achieved her goal of joining an elite corps, and was so happy about it. We were (and are) proud of the composed, confident young woman she had become.

About six months after her graduation, however, she suffered a sexual assault from another military member. The assault led to severe trauma, including hospitalization for suicidal ideation. As a result, she was honorably discharged after a little less than two years of service. There is a case pending against the other service member.

How should we answer those who persist in asking why she finished so early? We absolutely will not discuss the circumstances with anyone, as they are so personal and traumatic, and we feel her privacy is sacred. But there are people who pointedly ask why the usual service time was not completed. If we said it was deeply personal, that would only feed their curiosity.

We just say “She finished her service” and repeat it as necessary. But it is so agonizing to be grilled by people whose curiosity is insatiable.

Please, can you give us the words to effectively answer these intrusive inquisitors? They have no idea how much additional pain they are inflicting on top of a very difficult situation.

I imagine having a polite, strong response would be useful in any private circumstance that concerns only those involved and shuts down the nosy people once and for all.

GENTLE READER: “It’s called an honorable discharge. Have you served in the military?”

It is part two of this statement that will throw many of your inquisitors on the defensive, so Miss Manners advises you not to pause between sentences.

Even if the answer is yes, it still works to deflect the questions – by your turning the conversation around and asking when and where that person served. Even insatiably nosy people would rather talk about themselves.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I worked in a swanky club when I was in college and folded thousands of napkins for fine dining. It was possibly my favorite part of the job. Very meditative.

I’ve noticed that creative napkin folding seems to be a trend of late, and there are numerous variations. Are there napkin rules, depending on, say, how formal a meal is? Is any fold acceptable, as long as it’s neat and pretty?

GENTLE READER: Try as she will, Miss Manners cannot think of an offensive way to fold a napkin. So she supposes, yes: Unloose your creativity.

Wait – she did think of one. Many years ago, it was the custom to put a dinner roll into the folds of the napkin, which led to unsuspecting diners seeing their rolls leap onto the floor. Not a nice trick.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When sending a response for a wedding, do I include my toddler in the number?

GENTLE READER: Only if your toddler was expressly invited, but has not had the courtesy to respond.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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