Miss Manners: Strangers don’t require explanation of mixed-race child

October 17, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a Caucasian man and my wife is Chinese. Often when I am out with our daughter but not my wife, strangers will ask questions like, “Where did you get your daughter?”

What is a good reply? I usually just try to look confused by the question and joke, “In the usual way.”

GENTLE READER: Although amused by your joke, Miss Manners finds herself urging you to amend it. These impertinent strangers are presuming an adoption, and you surely don’t mean to imply that adopting a child is unusual.

Perhaps you might want to try, “I’m sure your family wouldn’t want you to be picking up information from strangers on the street about where babies come from.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My pearl earrings are simple and classic, but they dangle from small gold hooks. Are they still proper to wear at a funeral?

I ask because my mother is passing, and as I am not a family favorite by any means, the last few months have been quite difficult. The funeral promises worse.

It would be nice to know I am at least correctly attired from an official perspective. If I wear no jewelry, I will be considered “frumpy” and disrespectful. If I wear the wrong jewelry, I will be “flashy” and disrespectful, which is probably worse. It would mean a lot to me to know exactly where the lines of propriety are.

GENTLE READER: Plain pearl earrings (Miss Manners gathers that yours are not the long, swingy sort that should be reserved for evening parties) are beyond ordinary reproach when worn with black clothes to a funeral. But as your relatives are determined to get you, one way or the other, she cannot promise you immunity from the nasty nitpicking that they apparently consider respectful behavior at a funeral.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband’s hobby is building model airplanes, ships and automobiles. A few weeks ago, a friend dropped in with her 3-year-old granddaughter. My husband had been working on a model and the materials were spread out on the kitchen table. Glue and paint were drying.

My friend asked me to put the materials away because they were not “kid-friendly.” I told her my husband had gone out and I did not want to disturb his fragile project, so we should visit another day. Even though I was sincerely polite, she left in a huff and is now telling other friends how rude I was.

Miss Manners, was I rude?

GENTLE READER: Well, there does seem to be a bit of childish behavior here, on the part of everyone except the actual child.

Since your friend “dropped in,” it was presumptuous of her to think that she could set the terms of the visit. And the term “kid-friendly” strikes Miss Manners as implying that your husband is a monster for pursuing his own hobby in his own house.

Still, your solution was a bit drastic. Were there no other rooms or outdoor areas in which to visit? It should take more of a rampage for a guest to be thrown out of the house.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

, by Judith Martin

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