DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was at a party where a retired physician started asking me questions about whether I had had various medical tests.
I know that the tests she asked about are recommended for women of my age, but I also believe that this is a conversation for me to have with my own physician. She might well be asking out of a genuine desire to share her medical wisdom, but I found it rude to be interrogated by a stranger in a social situation. How could I have handled this without being disrespectful?
GENTLE READER: Resist the temptation to ask if the state medical board knows she is still practicing medicine — and at parties, where it is presumably impossible to protect a patient’s legal right to privacy. Instead, Miss Manners suggests you thank her for her interest and explain that being a physician herself, she will understand that you discuss medical problems only with your own doctor.
‘I love you’ in person
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it appropriate to text-message the words “I love you” to a woman when you are declaring it for the first time?
GENTLE READER: Are you concerned that her reaction will not be what you hope?
Otherwise, Miss Manners cannot understand why you would not wish to convey this information in person, knowing you might receive a response that is not limited to alphanumeric characters.
Keep the gift
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My new husband and I received, as a wedding gift from my new mother-in-law, a very fussy, floral printed duvet cover and sheet set that neither my husband nor myself would ever have picked out, as we both prefer neutral, subtle patterns, if any pattern at all.
My mother-in-law did not include a gift receipt, and I would like to know if it is terribly rude to ask her if we could exchange it for something more suited to our tastes. My husband thinks we should just keep it, never use it and never tell her about it. Any thoughts?
GENTLE READER: Chiefly how odd it is that you are willing to offend your new mother-in-law (not to mention cutting off any future generosity on her part) and to ignore your husband (whose advice is based on a better knowledge of his mother’s feelings than you could have acquired) over a coverlet.
Miss Manners realizes that it is now common to think of the ancient ritual of exchanging presents as merely a way to acquire what one has already decided one wants. But you might not have thought of buying yourselves an extra coverlet for guests, camping or parking visiting babies, and now you have one. You need only thank her (without mentioning such uses) and stash it away until needed.
Text comes second
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Which is more rude? To look at a text while engaged in an important conservation? Or to leave the text until the conversation is done?
GENTLE READER: The former. It is more difficult to convince people who are right in front of you that you don’t see them than it is to have failed to see a text message the instant it was sent.
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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