DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude for a man to ask a woman during a first date, “Do you know how to cook?” or “Are you a good cook?”
I have just turned 30 and prefer to date men in their late 30s or early 40s, but I find it incredibly rude when this is one of their first questions. I seldom cook, and cooking is never on the forefront of my mind or on my to-do list, but I am a good cook.
I understand men are looking for a wife and that a “good wife” cooks and cleans. But I would never ask a man early on, “How much money do you make?” simply because I am looking for a man who makes a good living. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: Being often accused of living in a different era, Miss Manners is loath to suggest that about anyone else.
But for a lady of just 30 years to believe that the basic marital bargain is still that of a husband who provides the income and a wife who cooks and cleans does seem a mite dated. Even aside from the personal objections that individuals of both sexes might have, it generally takes two incomes to support a family. And now that male chefs have become superstars, masculine disdain for cooking has surely lessened.
It is possible that you are meeting cooking enthusiasts who want to talk about their hobby. As a conversation opener, this would not be rude, as it would be for you to ask about a gentleman’s income.
In any case, you can find out by asking, “Why? Do you like to cook?”
Should it turn out that your suspicions were correct — should the reply be, “No, I’m looking for someone to do it for me” — you would be well advised not to consider this if you are interested in finding love along with that income.
You may well be looking for the same division of marital labor, which is fine, as long as you are willing to uphold your part of the bargain. But you should not expect romance from someone who treats a date as though it were a job interview.
That is, unfortunately, a common practice, now that dating services have taught people to state their demands upfront, on the grounds that getting to know individuals who do not meet their rigid expectations is a waste of time. It may be, but getting acquainted is how people fall in love, which used to be the general idea.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Unfortunately, I live in an area where smoking in public places is still legal and common. Is there a polite way to ask people I go out with not to smoke?
When asked why, what is a more polite answer than saying it’s gross, obnoxious and harmful to my health? The smoker no doubt already knows those things.
GENTLE READER: No doubt. Just as there is no doubt that you know your own bad habits but would not care to have others use that knowledge to insult you.
In places where smoking is permitted, asking people to refrain should be phrased as a favor. “I’m so sorry, but smoke bothers me,” Miss Manners expects you to say. “Would you mind not smoking just now?”