DEAR HARRIETTE: My job involves selling medical supplies. I travel to nursing homes, speak to various people and then report to the building supervisor what employees or elderly people want.

There are times when I’m speaking to elderly people or seeing someone using a product that I can’t tell if that person is a man or a woman. I know people can choose to identify as whatever gender they choose, but I cannot find a way around this dilemma. I have tried saying, “I saw a person using such-and-such equipment,” and I’m always asked if it’s a man or a woman (for clarity reasons).

I understand the need to collect data on which supplies are used where, but I could never imagine myself walking up to someone and asking what gender they are. I feel like that would cause offense! How can I navigate around this gender question? I genuinely cannot tell the gender of the people I interact with sometimes! – Gender Bender, Pikesville, Maryland

DEAR GENDER BENDER: I can see how sensitive this could be. One potential way to gather information without offending anyone would be to strike up a conversation with the people you are observing and introduce yourself. You can follow by asking them to share their names. Often, you can tell someone’s gender based upon his or her name. This will at least give you more data for your company. Under no means should you ask someone to clarify what gender he or she is. That would be rude and disconcerting.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: Living in a small town definitely has its disadvantages, especially when dating. My parents sometimes end up going to the exact same place as me on a date! They claim this is an accident, and it is plausible, since there are only a handful of places to go on a date. My friends, however, think my parents go to the same places to spy on me. I always tell them where I am going, but it’s so frustrating to be on a date in a restaurant with your parents 50 feet away!

I am 17 and have been going on dates with a girl I really like. I do not want my parents to creep her out. Should I start lying about where I am going? I jokingly told them I was going to “ground” them whenever I go out to dinner, and my mother was very hurt. – No Double- Dating, Bumpass, Virginia

DEAR NO DOUBLEDATING: It is perfectly reasonable for you to wish your parents would not dine at the restaurant where you are bringing your date. Rather than resorting to lying, sit down with your parents and have a serious conversation with them. Remind them how much you respect them, and thank them for preparing you to be independent. Explain that you need space when you go out with your girlfriend and that it is uncomfortable to have your parents sitting nearby. Ask them to trust you. You can also stop telling them where you are going. Just tell them you are going on a date.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.