Dear Miss Manners: I’m a middle school teacher, and often when I meet with parents for the first time, they will remark “You look so young,” or “You look like you could be one of the students!”
I understand they don’t mean any offense, but I am in my early 30s and do my best to wear professional clothes and makeup. Lately I’ve been feeling a little insulted, especially when they compare me to a middle-schooler.
I normally tell them “thank you,” but I don’t feel like my response is genuine or appropriate. How should I respond in the future?
Dear Gentle Reader: “I can assure you that your child is fully aware that I am a grown-up, and that I am in charge here.” Miss Manners just asks you to say it with a smile.
Dear Miss Manners: I have two acquaintances who each have Ph.D. degrees from Harvard. They insist upon being addressed as “Dr.” Smith and “Dr.” Jones.
I have a Ph.D. from another school. It has always been my opinion that this is not a social title, and should only be used in professional contexts. I believe that only M.D.s should be addressed and identified as “doctor” in social settings. What is your knowledge of this?
Dear Gentle Reader: A bit of knowledge that your acquaintances failed to pick up at Harvard: awareness of the reverse snobbery practiced there, and at other schools, where doctorate degrees are assumed, and therefore not broadcast. In certain professional situations, it is necessary to state that as a qualification, but the fastidious do not use it otherwise.
Miss Manners is well aware that your opinion and hers will bring on indignant responses along the lines of “I earned my Ph.D. and I’m proud of it.” She is also aware that the concept of not flashing all one’s achievements as widely as possible will baffle many people.
Dear Miss Manners: I go to a coffee shop and sit with some older ladies. Having been a widow for three years, I have luckily now become engaged to a wonderful man.
One older lady always wants to look at the obituaries and talk about her husband, who died a year ago. When an elderly man who was widowed four years ago asked her out, she was insulted. The other older woman also talks about her dead husband. Unlike them, I am very busy. I take yoga and art classes, and do belly dancing.
I have decided to sit with another friend and my fiance at another table. Sometimes, one of the ladies tells me I am insulting her by not sitting with them.
What is a kind way to tell them that I want to sit with my fiance at another table?
Dear Gentle Reader: Why are you making this obvious by going to the same coffee shop at the same time? You are not obliged to sit with them, but this does strike Miss Manners as provocative.
If you must, you and your fiance should exchange courtesies with them before saying, “Excuse us, we have things we must talk about.”
Address your etiquette questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners. com; to her email, dearmissman[email protected] com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.