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When manners meet STDs

By Meredith Moss, Dayton Daily News – 08/01/2007 – 12:00am


There was a time when etiquette books dealt solely with topics such as thank-you notes and proper table utensils.

But times have changed, and so have the books on manners. Take this example — “Coming Clean About Vital Facts” — from the second edition of “Etiquette for Dummies” by Sue Fox (Wiley, $21.99).

“Nice people didn’t discuss many subjects prior to the time when TV commercials dealt with every affliction known to humankind,” writes Fox. “Even now, you may have a number of little skeletons in your closet that you aren’t ready to share with the latest light of your life. But you simply must declare the following few facts before your relationship moves from dinner to breakfast:”


• If you harbor any sexually transmitted disease, you must say so. Even if your condition is held in check and is in remission by medication, you have to confess. Divulging this info is best done during a quiet moment together worth honesty and kindness — something along the lines of, “I’m very attracted to you, and before our relationship becomes more intimate, there’s something we should discuss.”

• If you’re going to start a sexual relationship, discussing the risk of HIV as well as sexually transmitted diseases, and what you both are going to do about it, is important. That means raising the issue of taking an HIV test and using condoms. Having that discussion is only proper if you’re intimate enough to be talking about having sex.

• If you’re married, you have to fess up. You may be legally separated and you may be dreadfully unhappy, but you must not keep it a secret.

Other topics covered in “Etiquette for Dummies” include:

• When to send an old-fashioned hand-written note and when an e-mail note will do.

• Blogging, online dating, personal e-mails and proper e-etiquette.

• Entertaining visitors from other countries and helping them feel comfortable.

The book — like all “For Dummies” books — concludes with the “Part of Tens,” including “Ten Etiquette Tips for Children and Teens” and “Ten (or so) Tips on Tipping Appropriately.”

— Meredith Moss, Staff Writer

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