DEAR MISS MANNERS: Pregnant women nowadays appear to want everyone to know they are pregnant, and how far along they are, by wearing tight knit tops. Not only are their stomachs huge, but their belly buttons are pooched out.
I find this disgusting. I’m in my early 60s — am I too old-fashioned? I miss the days when women wore loose “maternity blouses.” One knew that the woman was pregnant, but we didn’t have to be reminded of what was going on under the maternity blouse.
GENTLE READER: What Miss Manners misses are the days when no one would have thought of staring a lady — pregnant or not — in the belly button. She does not miss the days when pregnant ladies were expected to dress as if they were wearing the nursery curtains.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a vacation in Paris, I stayed at a lovely furnished apartment. In the kitchen with all of the silverware was a set of round, perfectly flat “spoons” about the size of a teaspoon. There was a set of eight along with all of the other forks and spoons.
Although I have looked on the Internet, I cannot find these spoons and what they would be used for. Can you provide any insight as to their purpose?
GENTLE READER: But yes, as we say in France.
During your stay in Paris, Miss Manners supposes that you also noticed that the French are proud of their cuisine. Those flat spoons were the 20th-century invention of a French chef who didn’t want anyone to miss a drop of his superb sauce.
The sauce spoon is rarely seen in America, where some feel that a crust of bread will do just as well, and others have mastered the quick flick with the side of a fork. If you acquired such spoons, you will find that you amaze, and possibly delight, your guests.
Nothing much to be said
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Members of my husband’s family greet me, in person and on the phone, by saying, “What are you doing?” rather than the more traditional, “Hello. How are you?”
Am I wrong in finding their greeting to be rude? It is quite awkward to walk into a social gathering and have someone ask what I’m doing (clearly, I am attending the same event that they are), or to pick up the phone and have someone demand to know what I am doing right that second.
Is it rude of me to ignore their specific question and respond, “I am well, thanks, how are you?”
GENTLE READER: That you do not reply, “I’m answering the telephone,” or the equivalent for direct encounters, takes remarkable restraint.
However, your in-laws could point out that “How are you?” could also be construed as an intrusive question.
But Miss Manners agrees with you that there is a difference. Aside from the literal-minded folks who complain that those who ask show no interest in the health problems that are described in reply, most people understand that the inquiry is a mere convention, requiring no more than the perfunctory response you offer. If you want to respond to that, rather than with an almost equally perfunctory “Oh, nothing much,” Miss Manners has no objection.
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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