Q. I Am a 16-year-old woman. I rank No. 1 in my junior class, and my parents can afford to send me to just about any college. Ever since I was little, the goal has been Harvard, Yale, MIT, Wellesley, etc.
Whenever people ask me where I intend to go, I tell them. The responses vary from "Are you sure you want to go there? Some people only go for the name" to "Do you think you can handle it, dear?"
I have also heard "But don't you want to get married and have kids?"
I am beginning to think that those people who do not ask believe I am going to one of those colleges to find myself a rich, powerful man. I suspect these people of sexism and jealousy.
Please help me think of an appropriate retort that will remind people that they have no right to cast aspersions on other people's dreams.
A. Miss Manners agrees that you have been treated rudely, but you are getting a bit too worked up when you start accusing people who don't say anything of harboring sexist and jealous thoughts. Miss Manners does not provide rude retorts.
The question of where one intends to go to college is a foolhardy one to ask or answer before even early admissions are made. Despite your credentials, you don't really know where you "intend" to go, and a fudged answer -- "Oh, I'm looking in the Boston area" or "Somewhere where there's a good science program" -- would have been wise.
When the choice is definite on both sides, it will be time enough to deal with those offensive comments. You may then practice the gentle art of drawing other people's awkwardness or unpleasantness to their own attention.
The answer to the accusation about a college's name should be something like: "Really? Don't you think their psycholinguistics department lives up to its reputation?"
The answer to whether you can handle the work is "Well, I'm going to try my best."
And the answer to whether you want to marry and have children is "Probably some day -- I haven't really thought about it yet."
Q. As an 18-year-old college student, I was wondering what the correct (and discouraging) response is after someone throws something down my shirt.
Do I fetch it out and throw it back, untuck my top and -- if it falls out -- ignore it, leave it where it is and pretend I didn't even notice, or leave it and make a rude comment to the guy?
A. It would be interesting to run a poll here, asking college students:
1. What do you assume is the proper thing to do?
2. What would you actually do?
It is Miss Manners' guess that the answer to the first question would be "Ignore it" and the answer to the second "Throw it back with a rude comment."
Good manners do not actually require ignoring a physical insult. Yet you do not want to reward the offender with too exciting a response.
Miss Manners recommends fetching the thing out quickly, tossing it carelessly into the face of the attacker as if you merely wish to get rid of it and are not paying attention to where it lands, and walking off without a word.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.