Miss Manners: When discussing spouse’s illness, be spare with details

September 4, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Why do people feel that I have a need to know what is going on in either their or their spouses’ underwear?!

I have a friend whose husband has prostate cancer. I sympathize, but I do not need to know that he cannot urinate, or the color of his urination, or if there is blood. I was at a party recently when the hostess pulled me aside and told me about the color of her husband’s urine.

I do not need to know if your husband is required to wear a truss, or anything else going on in his underwear.

What do you say? My feelings are, if something is going on in your pants, I do not need to know!

GENTLE READER: And why don’t they just post it on the Internet and be done with it?

Wait, they probably do.

Miss Manners remembers when cancer of any type was considered unmentionable. Obituaries stated that the person had died “after a long illness.” (Nowadays, it is “after losing a battle with ...” as if it were the deceased’s fault for not having fought hard enough.)

Certainly it was good to stop treating a disease as if it were shameful. Bringing it out in the open had the enormous benefit of allowing sufferers and their caretakers to identify one another, and perhaps provide comfort, assistance and information.

But it also loosened the ready tongues of those who simply like to talk about their and other people’s illnesses. The way to put a stop to this is to say: “I’m awfully sorry about your husband and please give him my best. But I should tell you that I’m terribly squeamish. You wouldn’t want to have to look after me if this made me feel faint.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I love to wear hats, but sometimes people give me a funny look. But this time I really want to wear a nice and elegant hat to a wedding.

It is going to be in the evening, in the summer. First is a church ceremony, followed by a formal reception. I am used to wearing a hat in church, but would it be better to remove it before I get to the reception? (It will be in a different location; actually, we will be driving to the reception.) What do you think?

GENTLE READER: That as much as Miss Manners wants to help you, you also need the help of your friends. Not the ones who give you funny looks; we don’t care about that.

It’s the brides. They have to stop having evening weddings. A lady does not wear a hat in the evening, except for a tiny bit of fluff that can pass for a hair ornament.

But look at all those heavenly hats that are worn at European weddings, where civic unions must be conducted when the offices are open. The festivity of all those colorful hats (as opposed to the all-purpose black dresses that keep showing up incorrectly at evening weddings) should be enough to bring back the traditional daytime wedding. That, and the fact that these are less expensive than those endless nighttime bashes.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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