DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how strangers have treated me during both of my pregnancies. They open doors, carry groceries, offer well wishes — this list goes on and on.
The issue is that as soon as I’ve had the baby and am wrestling with the baby carrier, diaper bag, stroller and everything else that goes along with an infant, people act like I don’t exist and they don’t see me. I’m often struggling to just get through doors as people whiz by without a second glance.
Although I don’t think there is any formal etiquette surrounding this situation, please remind your readers that moms need the most support, assistance and often patience after the baby is born, and they are trying to muddle through errands after they’ve finally made it out of the house.
I am not under any illusion that strangers owe me anything because I’m struggling with all of my baby gear, but the difference in how I was treated when pregnant and then with an infant has always puzzled me.
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GENTLE READER: Why is it that the prospect of a new life seems ever more enchanting then the life itself?
Miss Manners is pleased to hear that you were treated well during your pregnancies, and if the same people who showed you empathy don’t understand what comes next, then she needs to have a talk with them not only about manners, but also about biology.
Guard that number
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve always thought that if a man asks for my phone number in order to schedule a romantic date, it is polite for me to give it.
Some of my friends argue that I should never give my number to a man with whom I am not already acquainted, given that he might be a suspicious character who could misuse the number to harass me or derive compromising information from my smartphone.
My thinking is that any man, whether I know him or not, could be dangerous and that, rather than withholding my phone number (something I believe to be rude), I should continue communication but act intelligently with a sharp eye for suspicious behavior.
Perhaps Miss Manners can help us understand if and how safety changes the dynamic of the situation.
GENTLE READER: And if these gentlemen asked for your wallet, would you feel it only polite to give it to them as well?
Miss Manners assures you that there is no etiquette rule that decrees one must give out personal information to anyone who asks.
While it is true that anyone could do anything, regardless of how well you know them, you are not tipping the hand in your favor. Erring on the side of safety, provided that you decline all reasonable requests politely, is always correct. So is giving your work number to a gentleman who interests you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a 10-year-old son who hates to write thank-you notes. How can I desensitize my ears to his complaining?
GENTLE READER: You could sensitize him, instead, to the relationship between generosity and gratitude. Miss Manners suggests you offer to explain to his relatives that he finds receiving presents to be too much of a responsibility.
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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