Q: I am at a loss to come up with a polite reply to a rather common observation. Friends and acquaintances who have not seen me in a while seem to feel compelled to tell me that “Your hair is long.”
As I have, indeed, been growing my hair out for a few years now, I am quite aware that it is longer than it used to be.
Their failure to add even a modest compliment to this rather pointed observation leads me to suspect that they do not like my new hairstyle. I am loath to say something to the effect of, “Yes, do you like it?” because, frankly, I do not want their opinion (it is hard enough for me to decide on personal grooming matters; I do not need input from everyone I know), and in any case they seem to have already made their true opinion known by their rather loud silence.
Reminding them of their mothers’ admonition (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all …”) seems a bit much. I notice that gentlemen who shave, or add, facial hair are often subjected to the same insensitive observations. Any thoughts on how best to respond?
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A: In assuming that such comments indicate disapproval, you fail to allow for the propensity people have for stating the obvious. It is common, as well as idiotic, for people to be constantly informing others that they are tall or short or red-headed.
Miss Manners would allow you to reply in the same spirit by validating their observations. The response to “Your hair is long” should be, “Yes, it is.” If you want to be chummy, you could add, “I grew it.”
Q: Is it appropriate to drink out of your cereal bowl?
A: Not Miss Manners’ bowl, she trusts. It would certainly upset her breakfast.
But are there others it might upset? Anybody else at the breakfast table? That person hiding behind a newspaper or tablet counts, as there could still be a peek. You would be safer drinking that last bit when you take the bowl into the kitchen.
Q: As I’m sure you know, traditionally the bride’s family comes up with the cost of the wedding. But now that marriage has become so diversified, who holds that responsibility? Grooms to grooms, brides to brides and has this changed the tradition as far as straight marriage goes?
A: That custom was causing trouble long before gay weddings became legal. It referred to a time when brides were married from under their parents’ guardianship, and the wedding expense was offset by the expectation that all subsequent living expenses would be paid by the bridegrooms.
Miss Manners need hardly point out how silly it is to apply this automatically to brides who are out on their own and self-sufficient. Weddings are family occasions, and families should talk them over and decide, without pressuring one another, what each element feels it can comfortably contribute. Only then should the plans be made so that they are affordable.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.