Dear Miss Manners:

Every year I go to the doctor for my annual prostate, anal and overall checkup. I am always offered a gown to put on. While on the exam table, I am asked to scoot down or turn over a few times, and it is difficult with the gown on.

Would it be out of line to refuse the gown, or is it required by the doctors? I am not modest in front of my doctor, and it would be more comfortable without the gown. I did not mention that I have a woman doctor.

Would you want naked people running around your office?

Well, doctors don't dream of your doing so, either. What they examine are body parts, uncovered one at a time so as to dispel any notion that they are feeling up individuals. Before they deal with their patients as people, they tell them to get dressed.

Miss Manners assures you that this convention works to your advantage, immodest though you may be. You want your doctor to evaluate your body medically, rather than aesthetically.

Dear Miss Manners:

I work in a very professional environment, so it caught me completely off guard today when a new co-worker asked if I had a stick of lip balm. I replied, "Yes, why do you ask?" thinking that would give the hint.

But she inquired further, "Can I use it?" in front of a fellow co-worker. I wasn't sure if I should have declined and risked insulting her hygiene by not sharing or instead obliged and looked too unconcerned about my own by lending it.

I opted to share. Did I do the right thing?

This new co-worker also has some other habits that reflect poorly on her level of professionalism, such as picking at her fingernails while someone is trying to explain something to her, cutting her cuticles while sitting in a meeting in someone's cubicle, etc.

Should I pull her aside privately to let her know this is not appropriate at work? (She is right out of school and this is her first professional job.) Or is this her manager's job (who is already aware of such behavior)?

Now that you and your colleague are on the same stick of lip balm, Miss Manners has a hard time saying that you are not on sufficiently intimate terms to attempt reforming her. Nevertheless, you should let the manager do it and concentrate on protecting yourself from unreasonable demands and flying cuticles.

A vague "sorry" at the start would have covered whether you actually possessed lip balm or were simply declining to share; as you discovered, bringing on the second question was not a good idea.

If you are caught trying to explain work matters to this lady while she is busy grooming herself, the polite thing to do would be to offer to postpone work until she has finished her toilette.

Dear Miss Manners:

What does R.S.V.P. stand for?"Respondez, s'il vous plais," which is "Respond, please" in French. It does not stand for Recreational Spontaneity is Very Pleasant, as many people seem to think.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2007, Judith Martin