I am noticeably pregnant and am horrified at anyone, especially strangers, thinking it’s OK to reach out and put their hands on my belly without even thinking to ask if they can. Am I being too sensitive?

Gosh no. People don’t ordinarily touch other people’s bellies when they are not pregnant, so thinking a pregnant woman is issuing an invitation for people to handle her baby bump is just wrong. Even though it is done with excitement or kindness, it still is a personal space invasion. If this is bothering you, it’s fine to say, “Oh, I’m sorry, but my skin is pretty sensitive right now so I have to ask you not to do that.” Say it with a smile to take any perceived sting out of your refusal, because usually they mean well.

When I was in line for coffee and it was my turn I suddenly changed my mind and had to think for a minute about what I wanted instead of what I had planned. The person behind me, and the one behind her, said a lot of snarky things about me. Wasn’t that rude of them?

No, not really. We all have an obligation to be ready when a line or someone else’s time is involved. If you’re exiting a parking lot or garage, get your ticket or token out before you even start your car. If you’re in a food line, know what you want before you get to the front of the line. If you’re about to get in a grocery store line, have your courtesy or points card in your hand. When you stall or fumble looking for things, you are holding every other person up, and that is not particularly thoughtful. Manners is all about consideration and thoughtfulness, much more than it is about which fork to use or the best way to fold a pocket handkerchief.

I am a 60-something male who has been semi-involved with a woman. I am fond of her, but she is more than fond of me. I’ve tried to back off a little by not being available, or citing reasons that I can’t see her so she gets the picture that what we have is a nice friendship, no more than that. She seems to be upset and is not getting the message. What can I do?

You can remember that the kindest thing is to be honest and to talk directly about what is happening when a relationship is ending, or in any other personal situation. Dropping hints or making yourself unavailable is neither kind nor considerate when what you are intending is to do is offer new terms, or withdraw whatever terms were on the table before. If you don’t, your signals are confusing and likely hurtful. If you do, you are allowing the other person a way to hang on to her dignity and composure, and giving each other the chance to maintain a friendship that is important to both of you.

Questions for Catherine? Send them to michaels.catherine@yahoo.com