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Miss Manners: Parent’s self-insult sticks in kid’s craw

Dear Miss Manners: I did a DNA test and found out that I am not biologically related to one of my parents, who passed on some years ago. This was subsequently confirmed by my other parent, to whom I am biologically related.

I will confess that this did cause my internal gyroscope to precess a bit, but I am pretty much reconciled to the situation now, and there is certainly nothing to be done about it.

However, one thing did and does bother me. In one of our conversations, my surviving parent referred to themselves with a horrible slur word. I informed them that I certainly didn't think of them that way, and that I never wanted to hear them refer to themselves that way ever again. I then pointed out that if I ever heard of someone else calling them that, that person would get a swift slap upside the head — since that kind of person is not really worth the effort of making a fist.

I am certain that Miss Manners would disapprove of the action (though not the reason). I would hope that the situation never arises, but if it did, could Miss Manners please suggest what would be the appropriate alternative?

To slapping someone in the face? Pretty much any of the other options. Interesting psychology there, too, that people who insult themselves are not then worthy of the effort of hitting someone else who does so.

Miss Manners is indeed aware of your good, if misguided intentions: to get people to stop calling themselves incendiary names. In place of physical harm, she suggests, “I’ll kindly ask you to refrain from insulting the person responsible for my existence, whom I happen to hold in the highest esteem, and to whom I am extremely grateful for any behavior which caused my birth.”

And then refrain from adding — or asking about — any further details.

Dear Miss Manners: My 19-year-old daughter is wonderful in many ways. She is attending a university on academic scholarships and getting excellent grades. The problem is that she seemingly always dresses provocatively.

The most recent was a Sunday afternoon all-female baby shower, held outdoors at a park pavilion. She wore a very short, clingy dress in a pale pink color (looked nude).

I was embarrassed! I am not a prude, and I understand there are times when a young woman wants to look alluring. I have tried to talk to her about the difference between "classy sexy" and "trampy," and that there is a time and place for everything. She only gets defensive. What, if anything, can I say or do?

It is a teenager’s destiny to spend that time dressed inappropriately.

However, Miss Manners encourages you not to succumb to the distasteful idea that one should dress modestly so as not to give others “the wrong idea.” That notion is insulting and outdated.

Instead, she suggests that you appeal to your daughter’s sense of professionalism. “You know, soon you will be applying for internships and jobs, and knowing how to dress for the job that you want can be so important. Contacts and connections can be formed anywhere, so you might be wise to start practicing now.”

But if your motherly warnings do not take, rest assured that the phase will not last long. And you will have lots of embarrassing photographs with which to taunt her in the future.

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

2021, by Judith Martin

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