Dear Miss Manners:
For many years, a girl at my high school was one of my closest friends. Each of us knew everything about the other -- until about a year ago, when she started dating a guy who was all-around bad news. Now I am afraid that some of the bad-news boyfriend has rubbed off on her.
Although I no longer consider myself a friend of hers, we act civilly toward each other and still talk from time to time. Recently there has been a rumor circulating around my school regarding whether or not she is pregnant. I have had at least two dozen people ask me if it is true, and I have told every single one of them that I don't feel it's something that they need to concern themselves with.
However, after being asked this question by so many people, I could not help but wonder how much, if any, truth went along with this rumor. I went straight to the source. Right before I left a recent social event, I pulled her aside, made sure no one would be able to hear me, and asked her myself.
She, in turn, said I was prying and said that my timing, along with my asking, was inappropriate, and any attempts at apologizing for my behavior were ignored. I have found myself wondering: If I was entirely concerned for her well-being, was I wrong to inquire about it?
Without doubting your concern, Miss Manners does doubt that it prompted your inquiry. You asked because you were curious. Naturally. Miss Manners is curious, too, and she doesn't even go to your high school.
But that does not justify your trying to satisfy your curiosity by casting aside another's privacy. You may consider it a rule for life that asking any friend, former friend, relative or acquaintance if she is pregnant is rude.
Besides, how were you going to improve her well-being if you knew? By offering midwife services? The kindest thing you could have done for her was to remain ignorant so as to discourage any gossip that came your way.
Dear Miss Manners:
At the reception hall for my son's wedding, there was no receiving line for parents to greet the guests -- just a lot of people in one room. Is it proper etiquette for the guests to then approach the parents and say hello/goodbye? I tried to make the rounds and greet everyone, but with the number of people, it was difficult. I felt slighted that some people I couldn't greet didn't come over to me.
Is it proper for the guests to overlook the slight offered to them by hosts who fail to greet them, and take the job upon themselves? Yes, but let us not forget here who created the problem.
Miss Manners has heard a lot of nonsense about a receiving line being "too formal" for people who are entertaining dozens of people on -- guess what? -- formal occasions. So far, they have not come up with a substitute that would allow them to greet every guest upon arrival at a reception and say goodbye to every guest who is departing.
"Making the rounds," as you have discovered, does not do the job. Once the reception gets going, both hosts and guests find themselves waylaid in conversation and hesitant to interrupt other conversations. So they both feel slighted.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c)2002, Judith Martin