DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper and also gracious way to introduce the mother of a future baby whose parents are neither married nor plan to remain close?
The future father is our relative, and neither family nor friends know the young lady. Are terms like “sister-in-law, cousin, granddaughter,” etc., misleading and out of the question?
GENTLE READER: If the mother is not planning to stick around, Miss Manners would not have thought that how to introduce her would be a problem. Certainly if the relatives plan to gather at the hospital, her connection to the goings-on should be self-evident.
But assuming that introductions will be necessary in the future, you have public (as opposed to romantic, or perhaps unromantic) facts to use. Introducing her by her name, adding, by way of any needed identification, “Noah’s mother” or “Our little cousin’s mother,” will not draw attention to an omission that was, in any case, not yours.
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Polite refusal is enough
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I grew up with an alcoholic father and have a very clear picture of the downsides of alcohol. I drink only occasionally, and I tend to come up with excuses at social events where I don’t drink: I’m the designated driver, I have an early start in the morning, I’m watching my calories, etc.
Is there a polite way to tell well-meaning but intrusive friends that comments about my drinking behaviors are not welcome?
GENTLE READER: The freedom with which casual acquaintances and even strangers press the most personal questions is a constant source of astonishment to Miss Manners.
Possibly these people are encouraged by the fact that you are not in possession of a drink to throw in their faces. So you could arm yourself early in the event with an ambiguous glass of orange juice or sparkling water with a slice of lime.
You do not actually need an excuse. You could keep repeating, “Thank you, I don’t care for a drink” until the nosy become bored with probing. Or you could keep repeating the answers you have been giving. Remarkably, people who do not respect personal privacy are unlikely to question a desire to lose weight, the needs of the job or driver safety.
Friend dips into her territory
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My signature appetizer dish for years has been my spinach dip. I am going to a game-watching party, and my “friend” who knows this is my dish says that she is bringing it.
I feel she should have asked whether I was bringing it, as she knows I always do. I told her I’m bringing mine regardless, and there will be plenty of spinach dip for all!
GENTLE READER: Will the teams be negotiating their own disagreements, or will there be a referee?
Miss Manners thought so. In the absence of what used to be called a host who either provides the food himself or awards jurisdiction for different dishes at a potluck, you will have to hope that everyone likes spinach. (And if you want to offer the other fans an additional contest to watch and possibly cheer, you could label your offering “Sofia’s original spinach dip.”)
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.
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