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Miss Conduct

Advice on making out invitations to same-sex couples

Plus, the tale of a nutrition science student whose eating habits are constantly under surveillance.

Illustration by Lucy Truman

> How do you address an invitation to a same-sex married couple?

From a Miss Conduct chat on Boston.com

This situation is too new to have traditions built up around it, so we must rely on common sense and the principle of treating all marriages, and both parties within a marriage, as equal. (Yes, this means that Miss Conduct doesn’t care for the “Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast” for heterosexuals, but that isn’t what you asked.)

List a same-sex couple alphabetically by last name (by first, if they share their last), unless one partner is a doctor, clergyperson, judge, or the like, in which case, that person goes first. Either both are given a first name or no one is.

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If the invitation is formal enough to require titles, here are some options: Mesdames Fauna and Flora Vernal (or Messieurs Jerry and Tom Katz); Mrs. & Mrs. (or Ms. & Ms.) Fauna and Floral Vernal; or Dr. Flora Vernal and Ms. Fauna Vernal.

And for couples with different names, you can try Mesdames Fauna Hibernal and Flora Vernal; or Ms. Fauna Hibernal and Ms. Floral Vernal.

> I am majoring in nutrition science and find that people expect me to eat only salads. When I visit friends for dinner, a meal of “comfort foods” is replaced with “health foods.” When I do indulge in junk food, people make sarcastic remarks. I don’t judge others, but it bothers me that they assume I will. I’m getting reluctant to tell people my major. What can I say when someone asks?

P.M. / Boston

Saying that you major in “food science” makes you sound a bit more like a chemist, and “health sciences” is nicely vague — but this is a stopgap and somewhat ridiculous solution. What do you plan to do when you’re an actual working nutritionist? You need to get control of the conversation.

I deal with the same thing as a social advice columnist. People sometimes expect me to be a paragon of propriety or personally invested in proper table settings, which is just . . . no. While I can behave like a proper salad when I need to, I often conduct myself more like a cheeseburger with fries. You’re not alone in this problem! Not only nutritionists and etiquette writers but also ministers, English teachers, social workers, dentists — oh, the list of professions that cause other people to get defensive goes on and on.

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Start thinking about what nutrition science means to you, and when you talk about your studies, frame them that way. Developing your personal philosophy of nutrition won’t be an overnight process. The way you talk about your career will develop and become more nuanced over time.

Ask yourself: Why are you willing to eat junk food when you know exactly how bad it is? You’ll want to develop your own language, but here are some ideas to start with: Food not only nourishes our bodies but also our spirits. Eating is a social as well as biological function, and food serves to connect us with other people. One of the benefits of a healthy diet is the room to indulge occasionally, and what’s life without indulgence?

Have this conversation with yourself and then start having it with other people — ideally over a slice of pie and an excellent cup of coffee.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Write to her at missconduct@globe.com. And read her blog at boston.com/missconduct.

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