Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Classified­s - By Judith Martin, Ni­cholas Ivor Martin and Ja­cobina Martin

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.

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