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Miss Manners: My future mother-in-law said she’d pay for grad school if I had a baby soon

Dear Miss Manners: My fiance and I are planning to marry next summer. We both have several years of graduate school ahead of us and are planning to start our family after we have established our careers. We will be paying for our additional schooling ourselves and have discussed our plans with our parents.

At dinner with both sets of parents, my future mother-in-law abruptly announced that she would pay for my graduate education if I would agree to “give her a grandchild soon.”

I was completely shocked and deeply offended by the suggestion that my body and future children were for sale. I wished I'd had a deft reply available, but I'm afraid that in the moment, I was left with my mouth hanging open. I then managed a disappointed “Oh, dear,” accompanied by a weak smile, and then changed the subject.

I don’t wish to be rude to my future mother-in-law, much less in front of my parents, but how in the world should I have responded?

With appreciation of her wit.

Yes, Miss Manners understands that the lady might not have any. We shall only hope that she has enough sense to join the general laughter when you ask her if you could get a double degree if you give her twins.

Dear Miss Manners: I am one of many guilty of reading on my smartphone while seated at a restaurant table.

I think a more pleasant way of dealing with the problem of dinner partners reading on their phones at the table is for the aggrieved party to simply ask, “What are you reading about?” Then allow the dinner partner to talk about what he or she finds more interesting than conversing.

Obviously, if your partner says, “None of your business,” that would be offensive. On the other hand, if they say, “My boss just sent me the latest sales statistics,” you can reply with either “Let’s not talk about business at dinner” or “Fascinating! Are they good or bad?”

If you had allowed Miss Manners to believe that your concern was solely about correcting rude people without being rude yourself, she would have admired you. After all, that is one of her specialties.

But no. You are an unabashed offender. You know that it is rude to ignore the person you are with in favor of reading whatever is on your telephone, and feeling guilty doesn't count unless you also stop the behavior.

So you are proposing a method of getting people to treat you gently when you are being rude. Indeed, it would be nice if your friends treated your insults gently. It would be even nicer if you refrained from insulting them.

Dear Miss Manners: I received a set of six pewter appetizer picks. How does one properly use them?

The crucial question is whether you can trust your guests to use them properly. You need only place them near the appetizers to be speared. But your guests need to keep track of which ones they have used. Miss Manners need hardly explain the ick factor if they do not.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin