DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a picky eater. I like some foods; I hate some foods; some foods make me sick even to consider eating. I am an adult and eat what I like.
I have been trying new things and learning about cooking to try to change my tastes, but change is slow.
My problem comes with my family. They are constantly harassing me about what I do and don’t eat. When we plan meals together, it is always, “What are you going to eat?”
I am never rude (in my opinion) when people make things I do not like, but it seems as though they still expect me to eat it or give them a valid excuse (and not liking a food doesn’t count).
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My mother-in-law once made a breakfast meal, put everything on the table and said, “Well, there must be something here you can eat.” She has gone so far into being insulted that one Thanksgiving she told me she wanted me to put a little bit of all the food on my plate and move it around, pretending that I ate some (which I feel is just wasteful and disingenuous).
I just want to be left alone. Why can’t I be allowed to decline food, for whatever reason, and not be made to feel bad or have it pointed out that it is yet another thing I don’t like?
GENTLE READER: You are. In polite society, no one is supposed to notice what is or is not eaten. It should not be the subject of conversation at all.
But we are not talking about polite society; we are talking about family.
Miss Manners hopes that yours does not badger its guests but is acting out of desperation to please you after repeated failed attempts. Still, you must make them stop.
First, you should be complimenting the dishes you do like. Then you could show off your new cooking skills by inviting them, or by bringing a dish to share — as long as it is clear that you’re not bringing it only for yourself or as an alternative to what is offered.
The point is not to engage in defending your eating habits, but to appreciate their efforts and make some effort of your own.
Labeling last names
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a man who is legally wed to another man. At the time of our wedding, I kept my surname on our marriage certificate, but after the Windsor decision in the Supreme Court, I legally changed my surname to my husband’s.
In the past, when a woman changed her surname to her husband’s, her birth surname became her “maiden name.”
Is there a term to describe what my previous last name was? I ask because this came up in a genealogical discussion, and we were unsure if a term is in existence, or could be used or constructed to apply to men such as myself.
GENTLE READER: You have thoughtfully provided your own answer in the question, and Miss Manners thanks you for saving her the trouble. The designation “birth name” may be used by anyone of any gender who has changed names for any reason.
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, www.missmanners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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