Life Advice



Accidental Birthday Suit Sighting

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the etiquette if you accidentally see someone naked -- say, in the house that you share?

I went to brush my teeth quite late at night, later than I am normally up, and my housemate threw open his door -- stark bollock naked -- to find the cat.

We each managed to stammer out a sorry as we went to different rooms, and I also let out a No worries.

I did have a chuckle. But I am curious, what would the etiquette be in this situation?

GENTLE READER: Did he find the cat? Why was it missing?

That is the only subject in which you should show an interest. But as long as you kept the chuckle out of his hearing, Miss Manners assures you that you handled it well.


DEAR MISS MANNERS: How does one deal with false modesty?

I found myself caught flat-footed when chatting with a textile artist. I joked that he could be the one to help me with my blanket stitch, and he responded that his handwork wasn't very good.

Fine; I'd been mostly kidding anyway. But then he went on to give a rather extended account of his resume -- from college professor in a textile department to heading a very important craft council, teaching handwork all the way.

I found myself complimenting him, over and again, which he surely sought. At the same time, I was a bit miffed he'd been so disingenuous at the start and left me to fawn over his accomplishments, which he'd claimed not to have in the first place. My request for help with a simple stitch and his saying he didn't have the required talent were becoming more inane each passing minute, until I was left feeling foolish, not to mention speechless.


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