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The Etiquette Doctor Is In 

How to behave when your new doc is hot

Wednesday, Oct 12 2005
Dear Social Grace,

I recently moved to a new town and therefore have had to switch doctors. I am a gay man, and my new doctor is a very attractive man. In fact, he is what I would describe as "my dream man." He doesn't wear a wedding ring, and I suspect that he is gay from certain conversations we've had and questions he has asked (much more gaydar than wishful thinking).

My question to you is: Once I've determined that he is, in fact, gay and single, is it OK to ask my doctor out on a date? Friends have advised me that it is quite taboo. But doctors need a social life as well, don't they?

Thank you, in advance, for your social prescription!


Dear Lovesick Sir,

This is more than a simple question of good behavior: It is unethical for a doctor to make romantic overtures toward a patient in his or her care -- in fact, the American Medical Association prohibits it. So even if you did ask your doctor out, he would be obliged to decline your offer, at least until you found another physician.

So if you decide that you'd like to invite your doctor on a date, my prescription is to first find a new doctor. Even if you decide against asking him out, a new doctor might still be a good idea: Continuing to see a doctor for whom you have strong romantic feelings could be hazardous to your mental health.

Dear Social Grace,

For a little more than two months, my roommate has been dating a wonderful guy. The only problem is that the guy has unexpectedly become my third roommate. Keep in mind, this guy has an apartment and a roommate of his own, but he and my roommate spend every single night together at our (my roommate's and mine) home. Now it is a struggle to keep clean towels and shower gel in the bathroom, and I get to wake up and go to bed to the sounds of them having sex. I don't mind them sleeping together, but sometimes I just want the house to be free of all extraneous people -- that is, if you don't pay rent here, get out. I would talk to my roommate about this, but he accuses me of being jealous and gets extremely personal in his defense. Am I just being overly sensitive, or do I have a right to request some peace and quiet? I mean, how could I go about asking them to take it to his (my roommate's boyfriend) house from time to time. Why is it that I am the roommate that has to deal with the brunt of their relationship? Thank you for your time.

Put Out in Mississippi

Dear Put-Out Madam or Sir,

Your fundamental problem is not the new boyfriend. It is, rather, an inconsiderate and immature roommate who seems to be taking advantage of you. Yes, you have the right to request occasional peace and quiet. And yes, you have the right to ask that you come to a mutually acceptable agreement about sleepover guests.

You can try again to come to such an agreement. Approach the conversation without making accusations, and explain that you want an agreement that seems fair to everyone involved. I can't promise that this will work (if I knew a fail-safe way to reform inconsiderate and immature people, I'd certainly have more power than I do now). With your next roommate -- and you may be looking for one very soon -- you should probably have this discussion before you begin sharing a bathroom.

Dear Social Grace,

Do you think one should send flowers whenever there is a funeral for someone you know, or should flowers be reserved for family and close friends and sympathy cards for the former? My husband thinks flowers should be sent anytime anyone he remembers from his hometown dies, even if he has had no contact with them for 30 years. We have three small children, and it is getting expensive at $100 a bouquet. Advice? Thanks.

Via the Internet

Dear Mourning Madam or Sir,

Spending beyond one's means does not express compassion or sympathy. Your husband may believe that an expensive bouquet is -- because of its expense -- more meaningful than a thoughtful note. He is incorrect. Yes, sending flowers is a lovely gesture when someone dies. But a well-worded letter of condolence can be just as, or even more, comforting to the bereaved.

Dear Social Grace,

We recently spent the weekend at the lovely home of some friends who were away from home at the time -- at their invitation, of course. In the course of the weekend my facial cleanser removed some of the color from a hand towel (it's not so harsh on my face). I feel terrible, and it is my intention to replace the towel (I wrote down the brand and style from the tag), but I'm unable to locate the brand, and I don't know what to do now. They lived in England for a year not long ago, so perhaps purchased it there, but my U.K. Google search was fruitless. Short of replacing all the matching towels with a less desirable color, what can I do to atone for this damage? They aren't home yet, and I'd like to have a replacement or solution by the time they return.


Dear MBP,

Luckily, most people do not form a strong emotional attachment to hand towels, so you are at least spared the terrible misery of knowing that you've destroyed an irreplaceable keepsake.

So I think your remorse is, in this case, a bit too extreme. A guest's obligation when she destroys a host's property is to make her best effort to replace it. If the item is irreplaceable, then the guest can make amends with a token gift of apology. In your place, I would probably send an apologetic note with a set of new hand towels.

About The Author

Social Grace


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