Dear Miss Manners:

My significant other, whom I have been together with for two years, has recently moved in with me and put his own house up for sale.

I feel confident we have a future together, and we have discussed marriage. He has indicated that while not quite ready for that final step yet (has been married twice before and is gun-shy), his intent is to marry me within a year or two. He believes his moving in and selling his house should be indicative of his intent. All his friends, family and I believe him to be an honorable man. However, there has not yet been a formal proposal or ring.

I would very much like to at least get engaged and move this process along. Willing to be patient for a limited amount of time but not forever, all of which has been explained to him.

Etiquette issue: My partner is a very successful businessman and we attend numerous social events that his firm sponsors. Several times, well-meaning acquaintances and colleagues have loudly asked us when we are getting married, isn't it time, etc. I believe they mean to be "helping" me by putting pressure on him to "do the right thing." This is mortifying for me and embarrassing for my friend.

What would be a good comeback to such comments or questions? I don't want to brush it off as not being important to me (thereby letting my friend off the hook too easily), but I also don't want to have to debase myself by talking about something so personal to people I (and we) are not that close to. Do you have any ideas about what I could say?

Arguing with nosy people who think they are being helpful only prolongs the embarrassment, and ignoring them allows the embarrassment to hang in the air uncontradicted.

Oddly enough, however -- you will have to trust Miss Manners on this -- treating impertinent advice with apparent respect stops them dead. The idea is to stare at them in silent amazement, and then say, "Married? Us? It's an idea, isn't it? Maybe that's something we should talk about -- privately."

Dear Miss Manners:

For our Thanksgiving, we drove about 31/2 hours. After checking into a hotel, we arrived at 1 p.m. at our cousins' home. About an hour and a half after arriving, we were offered a nice plate of shrimp and some cheese crisps. From then it was another 41/2 hours until we sat down for dinner at 7 p.m. After dinner we waited until 9:45 while the hosts cleaned up the dishes before dessert was served.

Am I nuts or is this just totally off the mark on how to treat the guests?

Miss Manners supposes it depends on how thankful the hosts want their guests to be when food finally appears.

In regard to the late start, she supposes that your cousins misread the directions on the turkey. For deserting their guests to clean up, there is no excuse.

(c) 2005, Judith Martin