Q: Do please say you were joking when you referred to a child's "taking up the gifts" at a wedding service as being an innovation. I would hate to think of Miss Manners as being ignorant of such a well-known aspect of a Catholic mass, nuptial or not, as the offertory rite.
The gifts in question are not, as I suppose you imagined, place settings or popcorn poppers, but rather the bread and wine which become the Eucharist -- the body and blood of Christ.
You were kidding -- am I right? You really didn't think this kid was going to be asked to hand a microwave up the aisle?
A: You know Miss Manners never jests. Of course, she claims she is never ignorant.
Did it occur to you that she might have gotten into the wedding champagne?
Or perhaps a lifetime of being subjected to people who want to do strange things with wedding presents -- extract them, reject them, turn them into cash, carry them under their arms to weddings, refuse to thank people for them -- has disjointed her brain, so that when she hears the word "gifts" in connection with a wedding, this barrage blots out the obvious religious meaning.
In any case, she apologizes, as humbly as she is able.
Q: I agree with you that personal conversations have no place in a professional situation. However, how does one handle such questions when they are initiated by a professional (such as doctor to patient, in my case)?
I am in my early twenties and am subjected to questions such as why did I marry so young and why do I have a baby already, and various comments about my appearance. These are meant as compliments, but make me feel uncomfortable. How should I respond?
I was even propositioned by my former optometrist.
A: There is no professional privilege to proposition.
Nor does job status excuse anyone's taking liberties in a nonsocial situation. This is not to suggest that your social acquaintances may freely proposition or interrogate you, but the definition of what constitutes a liberty socially is one you must make in the light of each relationship.
Of course, a little judgment is required in distinguishing irrelevant social talk from legitimate questions on the part of your doctor. Miss Manners presumes you can tell the difference between "Has anyone told you what beautiful eyes you have?" and "Are you aware that you have a rash on your back?" or between "Why did you marry young?" and "What did your father die of?"
If in doubt, ask, "Is this for my medical history?"
Come to think of it, you should ask that even when you know the question is inappropriate. Just pronounce it more coldly and follow it, if necessary, with the statement, "I don't care to answer personal questions."
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.