Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In a recent Dear Abby column, a woman wrote to ask what to say when a person inquires what a newly-purchased item costs. The writer explained when she talks about a new item, many people immediately ask, “How much did that cost.” She, the writer, finds the question presumptuous and asked what is the best way to politely respond.

Abbey, who is not really Abbey anymore, but her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, fell short on her response to that one. She advised that it is natural for people to be curious about the price of new purchases, and the writer should stop talking about the items she is buying and the problem will be resolved.

Sorry Abby, but that is not the best advice. How about the fact that it is rude for people to ask how much things cost, or how much money one makes, or the net-worth of a stock portfolio. At least that’s the way I was raised and many others like me.

(Egads, are there really may more like me? But I digress…)

The other day I was talking to my sister who is caring for our father and now handling his finances. I have no idea how much money my father has or what his monthly income is. Never did my whole life. And my sister said she would not know now, either, except she has to take care of his financial business. But she also said that if feels so awkward to be doing that, almost like an invasion of privacy.

Thinking about that, just reinforces for me the necessity of keeping some things private. So I would advise the lady who wrote to Dear Abby to keep talking about the things she has purchased when appropriate and when someone asks how much they cost, say something general to deflect it — “More than I thought it would. ” If they persist in questioning a good response is, “I’d rather not say.”

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