The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Miss Manners: How should I have replied to questions about my surgeries after breast cancer?

Dear Miss Manners: I had a mastectomy and subsequent breast reconstruction. The reconstruction had to be redone, for both medical and aesthetic reasons.

I have been open about my breast cancer. Before the second reconstruction, two close friends independently asked me why I didn’t just “go flat.” Neither of them has experienced breast cancer.

I don’t think they were trying to be hurtful, but that is the effect — as if there is something wrong with getting reconstruction. Perhaps they view it as excessive vanity.

Theirs was a question that I never would have asked a woman, even before I had my mastectomy. I felt I had to respond, and I said something about not wanting to feel lopsided. These women are both good friends and I treasure their friendship.

I generally shy away from confrontations. But I really wished I had come back with a polite but clear response that the question was inappropriate and that women who decide to get themselves back together as best they can should be supported in their decision. What do you suggest as an appropriate response?

“Can we talk about something other than my bosom?”

Dear Miss Manners: My husband’s daughter just told her children that I am not their grandma, even though I have been with my husband since before they were born. They were calling me Grandma Toby and then, just last year, his daughter told her kids not to call me that anymore.

My feelings are hurt, and I wonder how I can move on from this. My husband already mentioned to her that my feelings are hurt, but she does not care. I have been married to her father for 12 years now, and she still treats me like a piece of furniture.

As it has been 12 years and things are only getting worse, Miss Manners suggests you try a different approach. You probably won’t win over the daughter, but you might do better with the children — provided you do not make it a loyalty test, or even let them see that you have a conflict with their mother.

“Let’s have a contest,” you can declare, out of her hearing. “What should you call me? Nonna? Oma? Grammy? Or just Toby? You decide.”

Then declare a winner, and however many runners-up there are children. That way, if their mother vetoes one name, they can try another.

Dear Miss Manners: If one owns knife rests and wishes to use them, where should they be placed?

I like the idea of having a place to put my used knife that is not on top of the tablecloth, with the tip on the edge of the plate or on the butter dish. I think a knife rest would be great fun.

Well, table settings may not be everyone’s idea of rollicking fun, but you have come to the right place.

However, Miss Manners does not believe in embarrassing guests who might not be familiar with one’s little flea-market finds. Knife rests at individual settings should be placed horizontally above the tip of the knife, to give the diner a hint as to what it is.

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