DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have two daughters, ages 3 and 6, that we adopted from China when they were babies. Many times when we are in public, absolute strangers will come up to our family and ask within our children's hearing if they are "real" sisters.
If I say, "yes," they continue to press me about if they are biologically related. As far as we know, our daughters are not biologically related. However, we don't feel that we owe strangers explanations about our personal family business.
Could you please offer some suggestions on how to answer this "invasive" question? We want to set a good example for our children, and we don't want to be rude, but it is getting tiresome.
GENTLE READER: Since you know from the wording of the first question that the second one is coming, Miss Manners advises nipping this conversation early. She suggests saying gently, "Yes, they are sisters, and I am their mother. But I have been teaching them not to talk to strangers, so I'm afraid that you will have to excuse me, please."
On some level this warms my heart, because Miss Manners is advocating something that sounds very much like the cut direct, which is precisely what such insufferable inquisitiveness merits. I would have expected her to advocate something far more genteel. Perhaps she knows that such people are very rarely deterred from their nosiness by a polite deflection; they persist in saying things like "no, I mean are they really sisters," or "you, YOU KNOW what I mean" as if they are entitled to know. The response "oi, fuckstain, what's it to you" is effective and adequate to the occasion when the children are not within earshot or able to comprehend. But Miss Manners, I believe, does not advocate use of the term "fuckstain," with the possible exception of improper salad fork placement.
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