Reader Response, Vol. 3, Issue 8

On Pregnancy: Great advice. When my wife was pregnant, and feeling ugly and fat, she once asked me: "Did I always look this fat?" I am still, 30 years later, wondering how I could respond to that without getting in trouble. Either "yes" or "no" was wrong. "You look mah-vah-lous" probably would have worked, if I had thought of it. Etiquetteer responds: Etiquetteer recently spoke with a lady whose pregnancy was just beginning to show. When she expressed concern that she just looked fat and not pregnant, Etiquetteer told her "You look just the way you ought to look." In response to "Lil Mama," I can only say that her griping is insufferable. Having recently given birth myself, I know what it was like to hear all kinds of comments, including those expressing surprise that I was even pregnant. Frankly, I had bigger things to worry about -- would this, my fourth pregnancy, really go to term? Would this baby, unlike the others, be healthy? -- and was grateful for any kind comment or kindly-intended comment that came my way. The worries that Lil Mama detailed, such as, "Did I eat the wrong thing?" or, "Shouldn't my baby be kicking by now?" are universal worries, no matter if the pregnancy is the first or tenth. Having a baby is purely miraculous, even though it happens thousands of times every day. Even for women who suffer terribly to even survive the process of pregnancy and birth. Lil Mama should simply be thankful that she was able to get pregnant, carry full term, and will give birth to a baby confirmed to be in good health. Etiquetteer responds: Your letter provides proof that many ladies react to their own pregnancies with emotion, in greater or lesser degree. Etiquetteer thanks you for recognizing the good intent behind comments that came your way. 

On Private Situations: So bizarre to read about that person who is undergoing the "embarrassing surgery" as I am sure I know what it is. Well, okay, I guess it's also that I do call people to offer support (it's my other business) when they undergo surgery for colon cancer, etc., that renders them with an -ostomy of some kind. I know, it's a bit of a focused hobby, but I love it! Anyway, I recognize that sound in that person's letters, and heck, even if I'm wrong, you gave the right advice. It truly is none of their co-workers’ business, and only those you choose to tell should be the ones to know. They're obviously having a surgery that will leave them feeling more conspicuous than it really is, but to them, "whoa!" I like what you said. There are also websites to suggest for people with just about any ailment, illness, or surgery when they write with that sound of "feeling alone in the world", which of course, they never are.Just a suggestion that you tell people to search for such supporting websites under the illness or procedure they are going to have. It can save a "depressed" person's life, in many, many ways, to post a question to a message board and receive dozens of supportive, non-biased, open, responses.

On Debutante Balls: My sainted mother would muse..."Whatever happened to the days when it was not necessary to post the dress code on an invitation? People just knew what to wear." Etiquetteer responds: Etiquetteer could not agree more, but now hostesses run the danger of ignorant free spirits showing up in track suits instead of black tie. What’s even worse are those folks who know better but decide that they "don’t want to take the trouble" and show up in less than their best. And what’s even worse than that – the lowest of the low – are those who show up in proper dress and gradually strip off during the evening. Etiquetteer remembers being thrilled with horror to see a photo of Julian Schnabel in the once great SPY magazine at some enormous charity hoo-hah, jacket on one chair, cummerbund and tie on another, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, deep in conversation with another guest. Thank goodness he didn’t take off his shoes and put them up on the table . . .

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