Q. I am barely able to approach this topic, but let me put it this way. When my mother's Southern friend came for a visit, I was secretly glad to see her get out of her car, take the cigarette out of her mouth and spit.
You see, I spit, too. I'm an athlete and find, especially on the tennis court, that I accumulate phlegm and as quietly as possible, I huck-tu.
I've gotten adept at it over the years, but let's face it, I'm not proud that I've become a good spitter.
What's a woman to do? Men who spit don't seem to raise any eyebrows. I have other women friends who spit in public, too. What are we all to do?
A. What are you trying to do -- appeal to Miss Manners' soft heart and sympathetic nature? Do you really imagine, for one minute, that she will reply, "Why yes, dear, since you are in distress and ask so nicely, go ahead. Spit. It will make you feel better."
Then, you probably suppose, Miss Manners will suggest some genteel subterfuge, such as placing the hand in front of the mouth, and spitting sideways around it so that the results will actually land behind you; and of course she will take the trouble to caution you not to go against the prevailing winds.
Don't be silly. Spit if you must, since it obviously relieves you, but don't ask Miss Manners to be an accomplice to the deed.
Q. I'm an instructor in a zoology department, and arranged to go to lunch with a couple of colleagues in zoology. When we were about to go out, a good friend of mine from another department came along. I introduced her, but did not ask her to join us because I thought it would be wrong to do so, without asking the others first, which would have been awkward right then. I did explain that we were going to talk shop, but now my friend is angry with me because she feels I slighted her. Did I?
A. Your friend is rather sensitive. Make sure she is not within earshot when you are making or receiving proposals of marriage, because she will expect to be included.
The rule is that one does not invite some people present, but not others, to a social event; nor does one discuss such an occasion before people who are not to be included. However, one would have to lead a mighty paltry social life in order to define a few colleagues going off to lunch together to talk shop as a social event.
Q. When a person goes between two people who are talking and says "Excuse me," should he have to keep saying "Excuse me" each time? My friend says once it is said, it need not be repeated, and I say that each time you pass between two people you should say "Excuse me" or "Pardon me." Who is right?
A. If your friend has cut between the same two conversing people twice, he has two wrongs, of which we shall now try to make a right. What is going on here, anyway? Are these two people planted in front of the only entrance to the bathroom?
If you must keep cutting between the same two people, then you must keep excusing yourself. In fact, the excuse should escalate: "Excuse me" is enough for the first cut; second should be, "Excuse me again, please:" and the third should be "I'm terribly sorry, I have to go through again; excuse me, will you?" accompanied by a foolish and helpless smile.