DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a few friends and co-workers who, when they need to go to the restroom, feel it necessary to announce what they are going to do there (”I have to pee”), as if it makes a difference to me. I have absolutely no reason to know, but don’t know how to politely tell them that.
GENTLE READER: There are so many charming things you could say: “Congratulations,” “Good luck,” “Have a good time,” “Don’t forget to write.” Their announcements, however, would be charming only if coming from a toddler to a weary parent.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter is soon to be married. What are the traditional gifts for a mother to give her daughter on her wedding day?
GENTLE READER: Motherly advice, and a gingerly kiss, taking care that the advice does not spoil her mood and the kiss does not spoil her makeup.
Miss Manners is given to understand that it may no longer be necessary for mothers to enlighten their daughters about what happens on the wedding night, but there is surely last-minute wisdom to impart. For example, “Watch out that Papa doesn’t step on your dress.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a single and child-free woman over 40, and one of the smartest things I ever did was scrimp, save and somehow manage to buy a two-unit building on my own before the housing market went haywire.
I am in occasional contact with an old friend from high school who lives less than an hour’s drive away. She is married and lives with her husband and two adopted children in a single-family home that they purchased during what could be called the height of the housing market.
I have spoken to her twice in the last five or six years, and both times she has jokingly referred to me as a slumlord. I was quite surprised, and frankly offended, but did not know quite how to respond to that.
By calling me that, even in a joking manner, she seems to be implying a few things that are far from the truth: that I don’t take care of my property I worked so hard to buy and maintain, that I rent my units to disreputable tenants, and that (since I lived in one of the units for many years) I myself would live in a slum.
Do you have any suggestions as to how I can gracefully inquire why she would call me a slumlord? I frankly find the term quite offensive, and wonder if there is something more to it — perhaps secret envy of my financial independence? Or should I just assume she is making a rather bad joke and ignore it?
GENTLE READER: You are not required to have a sense of humor about being insulted. Miss Manners recommends your sounding stricken and saying, as if in disbelief, “How can you call me that?” and then explaining, as dryly as possible, your actual situation.
Your old friend will, of course, protest that she was only joking. This allows you to say, “But you know, this is a very serious matter,” and to deliver another dry lecture about appalling conditions in slums.
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