Q: I’m in a same-sex marriage with a man who is half my age. I consider myself very lucky and our marriage works well. We’ve been happily together for five years and counting.
I’ve found that others, particularly in the service industry, often ask if we are father and son or other familial connection. I usually simply respond “no” to the question, but if they persist, I admit to taking a fair amount of joy in their discomfort as their awkward guesses continue until I tell them that we’re married.
My husband tolerates my foible, usually with a smile, but friends say that I’m being rude and should simply tell them from the start. I feel that, while it may be uncomfortable, it certainly isn’t rude or mean, and that I have no obligation to volunteer information.
Perhaps I don’t have the right to the joy of their discomfort, but I consider it a small price to pay. Am I indeed being rude?
A: Do you believe that encouraging strangers to discuss your relationship status helps to open their naive or sheltered minds? Isn’t it, rather, laying a trap for them to continue the rudeness of making more assumptions?
Miss Manners would understand your correcting people whom you would be likely to encounter again. But whether you simply say no, or explain that you are married, she hopes that you will not allow the foolish speculations of service people to upset you.
Q: When your mother is standing with the freezer door open and food in her arms about to fall out, what should her son do who is asking for her to move to get into the refrigerator?
A: Go back in time and offer to help instead.
Q: My husband and I have six children with varying degrees of red in their hair. Our youngest son was born with beautiful “carrot top” red hair and an incredibly shy personality.
So often strangers will compliment him on his red hair and then have the nerve to ask my husband and me where he “got it.”
I can’t imagine that they really care where the red hair originated. I don’t feel obligated to explain, as it embarrasses our son and I find it very rude. How would you suggest that I respond?
A: Unfortunately, trying to curb the enthusiasm of strangers over adorable copper-headed children is a fruitless endeavor.
Why not have fun with it instead (and perhaps get your son in on the act and help ease his shyness) by coming up with some silly responses? “My mother was a pink flamingo” and “I sat under a rusty sink” were some of the cheeky retorts Miss Manners enjoyed in her youth.
Your children are in for a lifetime of (generally well-meant) comments on their hair. They might as well learn to manage them with good humor now.
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.
© Universal Uclick 10/02