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Miss Manners: Single dad is tired of fielding intrusive questions

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: I am a single father. I am not divorced; I am not co-parenting. It is just me and my son.

Many people I meet cannot seem to grasp the concept, and I am constantly asked invasive questions. Many of them are about my former wife or girlfriend (no such person exists). I am sometimes asked about my son’s origins — traditional birth, adoption, surrogacy, etc. A surprising number of times, I am asked the highly specific question, “How often do you get him? Every other weekend?”

When people encounter a single mother, no one ever asks, “I see you have four children. How many different fathers?” or “Do the fathers pay child support or are they deadbeats?” It’s ludicrous.

Don’t be so sure that single mothers are spared this intrusiveness. Or any parents, for that matter. Or just about anyone else, as we have a pandemic of rudely expressed nosiness.

So Miss Manners believes it is useful to have a response that means, but does not say, “None of your business.”

In this case, start with a firm “It’s just him and me,” which can be quietly repeated as necessary. And the answer to where you got him can be “The stork brought him,” or “From the cabbage patch,” or “Surely you know where babies come from.”

Dear Miss Manners: I was raised in a world of social graces where you did not ask point-blank questions, except among family or very close friends. This has changed, which mostly doesn’t bother me; people are curious by nature.

The particular question that ruffles me is, “Why are you so dressed up?”

When I am asked this, I am not “dressed up.” I do my hair, do my makeup and wear business casual attire throughout the week.

Currently I am taking business classes, and I also drive a school bus for our district. I am on a high school route, and I feel image is very important. (I feel most of the other drivers dress fairly “slobby” and set a bad example. I hold my tongue on this opinion, though.) Also, I live in a southern climate, so dresses just make sense, but this has led to embarrassing moments of being asked if I wear dresses and skirts for religious purposes.

These are grown adults asking me this, not my students. I can’t get over how rude this is. Is there a way to handle this situation other than to roll my eyes and become sarcastic? Is a polished professional that rare these days?

Yes, a polished look is now rare, which is all the more reason to expose high school students to it. And to teach it to grown-ups, whose motive with these questions can only be to lower your standards to meet theirs.

“No,” Miss Manners suggests you explain, “These are everyday clothes. I don’t wear my gym clothes to work.”

Dear Miss Manners: When you invite someone to lunch, on you, isn’t it rude if they ask to bring someone else? It puts you in an awkward position, doesn’t it?

Not if you respond, “Not this time — I was looking forward to a lunch with just the two of us.”

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.

© 2023 Judith Martin