DEAR MISS MANNERS: How long after a woman is married would you call her a bride?

GENTLE READER: In the 19th century, it was a year, during which she could wear her wedding dress as an evening dress.

Nowadays, Miss Manners supposes it is until the couple finally departs from the day-after brunch, much to the relief of guests who have been through a week of dinners, picnics, bar parties and softball games.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am by nature a very private person. I work in an industry that more or less requires a certain level of charisma to succeed, and I am very good at it.

The nature of my position has me working with clients in a one-on-one setting several times a week, and some of these clients feel as though they “know” me, when, in fact, they really know only the “work me.”

My top-paying client, with whom I’ve been working for a number of years, has on numerous occasions expressed having feelings for me, and every time I have expressed to him (as politely as possible, of course) that I am uninterested. It is not uncommon in my profession to have an occasional drink or coffee, etc.; however, he is insistent to ask me every time I see him.

He gets irritated when I decline too often and insists to know what I’m doing instead and who I’ll be with. While this makes me extremely uncomfortable, there is a certain level I am willing to put up with in order to maintain my job (there is no one else to take this person from me).

How do I answer such probing questions without being rude? Currently, I tell him I have prior obligations or I’ve got personal business to attend to. These answers are not sufficient for him, and he continues to probe. I honestly believe that he is the one being rude here, but I do not wish to answer rudeness with more rudeness. Please advise.

GENTLE READER: The name for this behavior is harassment. Furthermore, your relationship with your client being professional, he has no business inquiring into your personal life. Miss Manners recommends your replying to each such inquiry with “That’s personal” until he understands that.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a 60-year-old woman, and my husband’s mother has died. She was the last of our four surviving parents to die within the past 10 years, and we feel the losses daily.

I was stunned to receive two sympathy notes from different acquaintances that said they were blessed to still have all living and healthy parents. While I appreciate their acknowledging our loss, I felt a stab to the heart to have that so callously pointed out within a day of my mother-in-law’s death.

Please tell readers that a simple but sincere “I’m sorry” is sufficient and much appreciated.

GENTLE READER: Indeed. Why people think it is comforting to compare their own good fortune — or even their own bad fortune, which is sometimes done — when supposedly offering sympathy, Miss Manners has never understood.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

, by Judith Martin