DEAR AMY: I am a mom with young children. Because of a medical condition I have a large belly, but am very thin otherwise.
My condition requires major surgery, and I have two baby girls to run after, so I am waiting until both girls can be in school so I can be "down for two months" to recuperate from this surgery.
I receive five to eight questions daily from people asking me, "When are you due?"
Other than responding, "I'm not, thank you," how can I gracefully respond? — Not Pregnant
DEAR NOT: Given — well, everything having to do with modern life — I thought that everyone on the planet had gotten the memo that one should never ask a woman when she is due until the woman in question has established that she is 1) pregnant, and 2) wishes to discuss it.
A pregnant woman will bring up or otherwise telegraph this topic, opening the door to comments and queries.
A nonpregnant woman can only say, "I'm not 'due,' thank you." There is nothing more graceful than that.
Other than getting this response silk-screened across your shirt, you should be prepared to patiently state this until you can get your surgery. Good luck, by the way.
DEAR AMY: Which is worse — not receiving a thank-you card or receiving a form letter?
We attended a high school graduation party last month for a family member. We received a thank-you card in the mail earlier this week.
Inside the blank thank-you card was a small piece of paper, photocopied and cut to size, with the sentiment: "Thanks for coming to my party. Sorry if I didn't get to see you. The money will be used to pay for my college expenses," etc.
Amy, even the signature was photocopied! There was no personal greeting, nothing.
We had spent at least half an hour or more talking to the honoree at the party, so the note didn't even make sense to us.
Part of me wants to say something, while another part of me just wants to put this off to the general "tackiness" of American society.
What's your take on this and should I be looking for a book on etiquette to give the honoree in four years when she graduates college? — Mystified in the Midwest
DEAR MYSTIFIED: It is best to be thanked. Were you thanked? Sort of. Someone folded a piece of paper, put it into an envelope, wrote an address on the outside of the envelope and affixed a stamp to it.
This illustrates the age-old belief people have that sometimes it is almost better to do nothing, rather than to do it badly.
Don't react in such a way that your family member will opt to do nothing next time.
The good news is that you might find a use for that blank card that contained the photocopied note.
You could use it to drop your family member a quick note, saying, "Your graduation party was fun and I appreciated you acknowledging our gift to you. Even though your note was a little on the impersonal side, we understand the spirit behind it was sincere and we're excited to hear about your experience in college. Please keep in touch!"
DEAR AMY: "No Vacation" expressed the desire to enjoy "one last family vacation" before her 17-year-old senior headed for college. Her son refuses to join them.
Having the same situation in the teenage years with my now adult sons, I have a suggestion: Allow him to bring a friend.
Teenagers have a strong need to be with their peers. By having a friend along, he can get his peer fix, and still spend time with family. Our vacations were always enhanced by the friends our sons brought along (we paid).
It gave us a chance not only to enjoy ourselves and our kids on vacations, but we had the added bonus of getting to know their friends better. -- Been There
DEAR BEEN THERE: I've received a high volume of responses to this question — telling me that many families have wrestled with a sulky teen.
I love your suggestion.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.