Dear Miss Manners: May I make a plea for a public service announcement that everyone please keep their "curiosity" to themselves?

I am not referring to the kind of scientific or philosophical curiosity that develops into a search for knowledge or meaning that enriches the human experience. Rather, I'm referring to when a person interrogates a stranger about something that is 1. quite frankly none of their business; 2. nothing that they intend to do anything about; and/or 3. outstandingly trivial.

In the winter months, I wear a coat on my way to work. If I later need to fetch something from my car, and if the temperature is above freezing, I’ll do so without my coat — I’ll only be outdoors for a minute, tops. Apparently, this is so shocking to onlookers that they have to stop me or follow me, calling out, “Why aren’t you wearing a coat?”

Although I’m already a bit irritated that they’re asking — I’m obviously not homeless, just in a hurry; besides, if they were to discover that I didn’t own a coat, I very much doubt they intended to give me theirs — I’ll humor them by saying, “Oh, I’m just running out to my car for a minute.” They then ask, “Yeah, but aren’t you COLD?”

If I pretend not to hear this, I’ll likely be subjected to further questioning once I get back inside: “Now, wasn’t it cold out there to you? Do you just not feel those temperatures? That’s crazy.”

How many people have to put up with this kind of nonsense? I’ve seen a stranger ask a woman in a waiting room, “Why do you have so many papers in your purse? . . . Yeah, but can’t you just organize them at home? . . . What are they all for, anyway?”

A businessperson on public transit might get: “You dress nice, so why do you take the bus? . . . Yeah, but wouldn’t you get there faster if you drove? . . . Do you even own a car? . . . So why do you have a car, but not drive it to work?”

Or a person working in a cafe: “Why do you use the number keys at the top of the keyboard instead of the number pad? . . . Well, it’d be a lot faster if you used the number pad. . . . When did you learn to type?”

When one desires to end this completely inane, pointless line of questioning and finally — with total courtesy and lack of any indication of a rude attitude — says, “May I ask why you’re asking me about this?” — the response is invariably a defensive outburst of, “I’m just curious. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. You can’t just answer a simple question?”

Insisting that you are merely looking after another person’s well-being is no excuse. Perhaps I’m cynical, but someone would have a hard time convincing me that he or she is concerned about my health or safety when asking me “why I have such long hair if I don’t wear it loose.”

Why don’t they ask themselves, “Am I just being nosy?”

As whatever you say to your torturers is unlikely to be sufficient, Miss Manners offers you two solutions. One: Minimize the amount of time you waste by shivering, smiling and saying “Thank you, you’re so right” — and running back inside.

The other option wastes more time, but perhaps produces some heat in the form of revenge: Stop, approach the speaker, looking as cold as you possibly can, and ask what it was they said. When their question or advice is repeated, nod and say, “Yes, I only intended to be out for a moment.” The longer you can prolong the conversation, the more uncomfortable you will be — but so will your would-be adviser.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2021, by Judith Martin